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Pandemic helps ease traffic chaos outside some schools

Traffic chaos at students' drop-off and pick-up times is a perennial bugbear but some parents and schools have found new ways to beat the jam, with the fear of Covid-19 infection providing an added impetus.

Many schools have, since the pandemic began, staggered their dismissal times to avoid having too many students intermingling. And this has eased heavy traffic around school zones.

Mr Charles Teng, vice-principal for administration at Methodist Girls' School (MGS) said the school introduced staggered dismissal times in 2020.

"The staggered time has since helped to ease congestion around the area," he added.

Pupils from Primary 1 to 3 are dismissed at 1.15pm, while Primary 4 to 6 are dismissed at 1.30pm. Secondary 1 to 4 students end their day much later, between 2.15pm and 2.30pm.

Many other schools, including Naval Base Primary School, Nan Chiau Primary School, Yishun Primary School and Singapore Chinese Girls' School also have similar staggered dismissal times.

Traffic congestion from cars picking up and dropping off students around school zones is known to have caused illegal parking and queue-cutting by errant drivers.

On Tuesday (Jan 11), a 61-year-old man was arrested for a rash act causing hurt after he threatened to run down a 62-year-old security officer with his Bentley outside Red Swastika School. Police investigations are ongoing.

Union of Security Employees general secretary Raymond Chin said the driver had cut the queue of cars waiting to enter the school.

Some parents prefer to walk a longer distance with their children to school than be stuck in traffic.

Sales manager Ong C.P., 46, whose son is a Primary 1 pupil at Maris Stella High School, said he normally parks his car at the carpark of a church opposite the school and walk his son to the school gate.

Every weekday at about 7am, a line of cars can be seen queueing along Bartley Road, waiting to enter Maris Stella High School to drop off their children.

He said: "If I were to join the queue, we would be late."

The Straits Times visited three schools - Maris Stella High School, Nanyang Girls' High School and School of The Arts (Sota) on Thursday morning to check out the traffic situation.

The heavy traffic outside Maris Stella High School on Jan 13, 2022.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

At Maris Stella High School and Nanyang Girls' High School, a steady stream of cars entered from about 6.45am, with a long queue forming by 7am.

Housewife Julia Soh, who drove her daughter to Nanyang Girls' High School and her son to Hwa Chong Institution, said: "There are parents sending their kids to school, people taking public transport and people going to work."

At Sota, only two or three cars entered the school every five minutes from 8.15am, as many students were still doing home-based learning. A security guard was stationed at the pedestrian crossing at Zubir Said Drive to direct oncoming cars into the school's main entrance.

Another security guard was stationed at the roundabout outside the main entrance of Sota to ensure that cars do not wait there.

The Ministry of Education said schools have traffic marshals to direct cars during peak periods, and have designated pick-up and drop-off points.

The spokesman added: "Schools have also put in place safe management measures in alignment with national guidelines, such as ensuring traffic marshals are masked at all times with minimal and transient interaction with drivers."

Mr Bernard Tay, chairman of the Singapore Road Safety Council, said road safety is a shared responsibility.

"It is important for all parents to remember that they are the role models for their children. We need to educate both parents and their children with the correct road safety behaviour, not just for the sake of other motorists on the roads, but also to ensure that our children can go to school and return home safely."

The Land Transport Authority (LTA) said: "LTA monitors road traffic situations on our roads closely, including those in the vicinity of schools. Traffic slowdown near schools is typically transient."

The authority works with schools, parents and the local community to come up with various safety measures. These include the School Zone scheme, where red-textured road surfaces indicate a school is nearby, as well as road humps and road markings to remind motorists to slow down near schools.

TRAFFIC/ROAD RULESSECURITY ISSUESEDUCATION AND SCHOOLS