LINDSEY ENNS/BRANDON SUN
Grade 12 Elton Collegiate students Zac DeSchutter, left, and Dorian Lawson walk across Highway 10 to get to their high school with Forrest Elementary School in the background. The speed limit is 70 km/h in front of both schools.
FORREST — An Elton Collegiate student believes the 70 km/h speed limit in front of his school can be dangerous at times.
"It’s probably a little fast to slow down at a rapid pace if a kid just randomly jumps out at you," said Dorian Lawson, a Grade 12 Elton Collegiate student and student council co-president.
Recent provincial changes now allow municipalities to set lower speed limits in school zones.
- If the maximum speed limit is regularly 80 km/h or more, school zone limits can be reduced to as low as 50 km/h.
- If the maximum speed limit is regularly less than 80 km/h, school zone limits can be reduced to las low as 30 km/h.
Since the speed limit through Forrest is already 70 km/h, the new rules mean that, in theory, traffic along Highway 10 through Forrest could be reduced to 30 km/h.
Municipalities can also choose to apply the new limits only during certain dates and times.
Elton Collegiate and Forrest Elementary School are separated by Highway 10, which runs directly in front of both schools on its way through the community.
The speed limit along the busy route is normally 100 km/h but drops to 70 km/h once motorists reach the stretch of school zone. There is also a crosswalk in the same area.
Although amendments to the Highway Traffic Act now provide local governments with the authority to set lower speed limits in school zones, lowering the speed limit on a provincial highway could cause problems for motorists.
"I could see that causing issues with motorists because having to go from 100 to 70 through such a short school zone is enough but they’ve already taken precautions to make sure students are safe crossing the roads," said Zac DeSchutter, a Grade 12 Elton Collegiate student and student council co-president.
Some of the precautions the province has taken include installing electronic signs that indicate speed and flash when motorists go over 70 km/h, prior to entering the school zone. There have also been talks in the past about building a bypass, which the province claims is still part of its "long-term plan."
"The department has advised me a bypass for that portion of Highway 10 is in the department’s long-term plans," said Joe Czech, a provincial spokesperson via email. "However, the department has reduced the speed in the area and installed larger signs to improve safety."
For the time being, the electronic signs are a "cost-effective" solution to the bypass, said Rolling River School Division Supt. Reg Klassen.
"We asked for something that would better enforce or better remind motorists to slow down because it’s a school zone," Klassen said.
As an added precaution, elementary school students, some of whom take band class at the high school, get bused to and from Elton just so they won’t have to cross the road.
Although the crosswalk is equipped with signs and is very "visible," adding lights would increase safety, Klassen said.
"If lights were inserted at the crosswalk that would be very helpful because it can be pretty busy," he said. "Right now the (electronic) signs are making the greatest amount of impact."
Lawson, who recently got his driver’s licence, said he often finds himself driving below the 70 km/h speed limit because the electronic signs are there.
"They’ve had them for quite a while and it definitely helps," he said. "Me driving here myself I know it’s much easier to tell how fast I’m going under the limit when there’s something flashing at me."
RCMP also agree the electronic speed indicators have been helping motorists slow down in the area.
"Speeding tickets have been written in that area, however, there have been very few reports to RCMP of speeding in the area. We also understand that permanent speed reading boards have been put up, which seems to have helped," RCMP media spokesperson Tara Seel said via email.
Seel added they conduct traffic enforcement in the area "as much as possible," especially when students are going to and from school.
"From our patrols and the lack of reports, this does not seem to be a high-problem area."
To alleviate traffic congestion, Klassen said they’ve asked school buses to line up along the side road in front of Elton after they’ve picked up students at Forrest. Elton staff and students are also asked not to leave the parking lot during that time frame.
"Otherwise it jams up the buses trying to get back on the highway," Klassen said.
Although he hasn’t heard of any discussions yet about lowering the 70 km/h speed limit, he admits getting used to a 50 km/h speed limit in that area would take some getting used to.
"Nobody has had that discussion with us at this point as a school division," he said. "But anytime we can have traffic going past schools at a slower pace it’s safer for students."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 27, 2013