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It could 'save someone's life': a Grade 5 student campaigns for better safety in front of his Port Moody school

Jack Virginillo, 10, isn't allowed to cross Noons Creek Drive on his own
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Jack Virginillo, 10, is tired of drivers running the stop sign at the crosswalk in front of Mountain Meadows Elementary School in Port Moody. His mom, Dawn, won't let him walk to school on his own, and he worries for the safety of his little brother, Abel, as well.

Jack Virginillo is not allowed to walk to Mountain Meadows Elementary school in Port Moody by himself, even though it’s just a couple of blocks from his house.

The 10-year-old Grade 5 student has already had a couple of close calls with motorists rolling through the crosswalk on Noons Creek Drive right in front of the school and his mom, Dawn, wants to make sure he’s safe.

Jack just wants drivers to slow down and respect the stop sign. So much so, he sent an email to the Tri-City News to express his frustration.

“We just thought it would be a good idea,” Jack said in a subsequent follow-up interview on a recent sunny afternoon after school let out for the day.

“It’s bad,” said Dawn Virginillo of the crosswalk situation at her son's school.

As students streamed out of class, often to meet parents waiting in cars parked on nearby side streets, most drivers stop at the crosswalk. But some don’t. A few of those even subsequently turn into the school’s driveway.

“It’s almost evolved into an arterial route,” Virginillo said of Noons Creek Drive, which does provide a link to neighbourhoods further up Heritage Mountain. “It’s not a quiet suburban street anymore.”

Since Jack’s near misses, one of which was just a couple of weeks ago while he was walking the family dog, Vinny, Virginillo makes sure he and his younger brother, Abel, are right at her hand when she drops off and picks them up from school. He’s also not allowed to go visit a friend’s place on his own because it’s across Noons Creek Drive from where they live.

Recently, Virginillo started keeping score of drivers that don’t heed the crosswalk or stop sign, logging numbers from an observation post at a nearby yard. Over the course of several afternoons, she counted 28 total stops, 65 rolling stops and 17 drivers that didn’t stop at all. One of those was a transit bus.

Jack said he’s careful to make eye contact with drivers, but sometimes it’s just not enough. He’s worried with the school year about to end, he won’t have the freedom to go to the school’s playground to play or hang out with his buddies.

Const. Sam Zacharias of the Port Moody Police Department (PMPD) said the Noons Creek corridor is on its radar for enforcement of the 30 km/h speed limit in the school zone, as well as the three-way stop and crosswalk in front of Mountain Meadows.

“It is important to note that almost the entirety of Noons Creek Drive is a permanently posted 30 km/h zone, in effect throughout the year and even through the summer months when school is out of session,” Zacharias said in an email.

He added the force continues to work collaboratively with the city’s engineers as well as residents to come up with ways to calm traffic and improve safety.

In fact, while Virginillo and her sons were talking with a reporter, an officer did show up with a scope to gauge the speed of drivers coming down the hill. On several occasions he strode into the roadway to remind motorists to slow down and pointed out the stop sign at the crosswalk.

As Jack said in his email, “If you are reading this and you do not stop at stop signs, please do as someday it could save you a ticket and also possibly save someone’s life.”