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Body cams for crossing guards? In a small Quebec town it slows drivers down

Crossing guards in a small Quebec town have been wearing video cameras strapped to their body for the past year in an effort to discourage reckless driving and speeding.

'It makes drivers want to be careful because they are filmed'

Nathalie Ouellet, an experienced crossing guard from Saint-Raymond de Portneuf, Que., says her body camera is slowing drivers down. (Radio-Canada)

Crossing guards in a small Quebec town have been wearing video cameras strapped to their body for the past year in an effort to discourage reckless driving and speeding.

And it's working, officials say.

"All the crossing guards should wear these. It makes drivers want to be careful because they are filmed," said Nathalie Ouellet, an experienced crossing guard from Saint-Raymond de Portneuf, about 60 kilometres northwest of Quebec City.

She's worked as a crossing guard in the town of roughly 10,000 residents for the past five years. 

Along with her reflective jacket and stop sign, she's armed with a GoPro action camera strapped to her midsection.

From the moment she began wearing it last year, she said the camera has proven to be an effective way to slow drivers down.

When motorists feel they are being watched, they ease off the gas, she said, and now she won't do her job without one.

Threat of fines not enough, guards say

Motorists are required to obey the orders or signals of a crossing guard in Quebec or face fines of up to $400 and four demerit points.

But the threat of fines hasn't been enough to force drivers to follow the rules, according to crossing guards in Saint-Raymond de Portneuf.

Prior to the launch of the pilot project in 2018, crossing guards were asking permission to report rushed drivers to the police — recording license plate numbers and descriptions so officers could intervene.

Along with her reflective jacket and handheld stop sign, Nathalie Ouellet says she doesn't want to work without a body camera. (Radio-Canada)

"There are people who just do not stop," said Ouellet, recalling a time her hip was smacked by a rearview mirror while she was standing in the middle of the intersection with her stop sign in hand.

All cities should do it, says fire chief

The local fire chief said drivers have been much more courteous with crossing guards since they were equipped with the cameras. 

And for those drivers that don't respect the rules, they learn the hard way. Dozens of fines have been issued to drivers thanks to the camera footage captured by the body cams.

Quebec motorists are required to stop if a pedestrian is in a yellow crosswalk or if signalled by a crossing guard. (Radio-Canada)

"Traffic moves less quickly, so it is mission accomplished," said Chief Jean-Claude Paquet.

"For the moment, it's going very well. The message has been delivered."

Quebec City is considering the pilot project as officials plan the city's road safety strategy for 2020-2024.

The plan includes calls for body cams on crossing guards and dash cams in school buses as part of a $60-million investment in improving road safety around schools.

Either way, body cams shouldn't be limited to Quebec City, said Paquet, as it clear that the crossing guards and children all benefit from the initiative.

"Frankly, I would encourage all cities to do it," he said.

Based on a report by Radio-Canada

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