It was an exciting first day of school for most Grande Prairie students. Alberta Motor Association (AMA), RCMP and peace officers were scattered throughout the city to ensure that the first day was a safe one.

AMA spent Tuesday morning at École Parkside school educating young students and seasoned motorists on the importance of slowing down to 30 kilometres per hour in school zones.

The school crosswalk, which was controlled by two Grade 6 Parkside students, was the access point to and from the school for more than just students.

The Grande Prairie RCMP, peace officers, Grande Prairie Storm hockey players and the team mascot, Slapshot, used the crosswalk to promote school zone safety.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of AMA’s School Safety Patrol program. A few former school patrollers, such as Grande Prairie Storm business manager Don Moon, and Mayor Bill Given attended the school for the anniversary.

Watching the children control the crosswalk brings back some vivid memories for our city’s mayor.

“I was just saying that for me, the stop sign feeling in your hand – they were good heavy duty plywood stop signs back in the day – it was a really special feeling. It was the first sense of authority you get as a kid. But also, that ability to get out there and look after your classmates is a big honour,” Given said.

AMA celebrates current school patrollers by honouring individuals as ‘patroller of the month.’

Each month, patrollers of the month will be able to go to a Grande Prairie Storm game. Patrollers of the month from each school get to go to a once-a-month Pizza Hut party. The top patrollers are also invited to the Grande Prairie Regional College Wolves home game as well as a year-end party.

Safety in school zones is a shared responsibility. Students are certainly doing their job to ensure safety, now it’s up to the motorists to do the same.

AMA School Safety Patrol regional co-ordinator Shelley Biendarra is hopeful that motorists will also take responsibility and slow down in school zones.

“I’m hoping so, I really am hoping so. Our patrollers are doing a phenomenal job keeping young kids safe,” Biendarra said, who was also a school patroller when she was in grade school.

Fines for not obeying school zone speed limits in Grande Prairie – which run from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. – range from $57 to $351. Failure to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk is a $575 ticket.

Last September, city enforcement services issued 441 speeding violations and 103 parking tickets in school zones.

It’s not just the city school zones that will be heavily monitored this month. The County of Grande Prairie regional enforcement services and rural RCMP will be frequently patrolling school zones, especially during the first few weeks of school to re-enforce safe driving habits.

“It is our goal to have zero reports or encounters of traffic safety offences for at least the first few weeks of school,” said county enforcement services manager Stuart Rempel.