AS PARENTS AND students begin to prepare for the new school year, Ireland’s lollipop people have been undergoing new training originally designed to help pub and nightclub door staff handle drunken patrons.
It’s as part of an effort to tackle what has been referred to as a “growing problem” of aggressive drivers.
The scheme aims to equip the more than 400 lollipop people – or school traffic wardens as they’re officially known – in Ireland with the skills to deal with drivers experiencing road rage and to defuse, rather than escalate, a situation using conflict management techniques.
School traffic wardens, who are employed by local authorities, are tasked with ensuring that schoolchildren are safely able to cross public roads when coming to and from school.
“School wardens have a vital role to play. We don’t want these aggressive drivers driving them off the road,” said Noel Gibbons, road safety officer with Mayo County Council.
“The courses are about learning body language and gestures which will defuse rather than aggravate the situation,” Gibbons added.
The course, offered to local authorities as part of the training or refresher courses given to new or existing wardens, ultimately aims to ensure that “school children can cross safely” and feel free to walk or cycle to school, Gibbons told TheJournal.ie.
The training has been running over the past year.
According to Gibbons, many drivers ignore a warden’s ‘Stop’ sign despite a legal obligation to halt their vehicle – ignoring the risk of a €120 fine, four penalty points, and disqualification.
Stressed motorists have been known to menace wardens with their cars, refuse to stop when asked, rev their engines and to swear and shout personal abuse.
Incidents of drivers getting out of their cars and using abusive language also have been reported. There have also been incidents of cars approaching wardens inch-by-inch, in a threatening manner, as they stand with their signs in the middle of the road.
“We are very thankful to the majority of drivers who do stop when requested, but there are still numerous of drivers who seem to think it is acceptable to speed up when approaching a crossing,” Gibbons said.
“We will not tolerate any incidents of aggression and intimidation on the roads, especially when the warden is simply trying to do their job,” Gibbons added.