A city councillor says his colleagues may have moved too fast this week when it decided to bring in lower speed limits around schools.
While not necessarily against the lower limit, Coun. Stephen Montague (Richmond) said there are other ways to protect kids and it’s debatable whether the lower limit was needed at all.
"Just because we can do it, in my opinion, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we should have looked at it right away because I’m not 100 per cent sold that it was warranted," Montague said on Wednesday, after posting a number of concerns on Twitter.
Montague abstained from a city council vote on Tuesday night that amended a city traffic bylaw to allow reduced-speed school zones. The rest of city council voted in favour.
As a result, in September the speed at 20 schools will drop to 30 km/h between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Under provincial law, it’s up to municipalities to decide whether to introduce school speed zones.
But Montague wonders whether the zones will be effective, and whether the safety of children could have been protected in other ways.
For one, he questions the signage required by strict provincial law. Between six and eight signs will have to be placed in the zones, and as many as 16 on divided roads.
That’s "sign overkill," Montague said. The signs — which he said will be loaded with information such as dates and times — could distract drivers as they’re supposed to be watching for kids.
It would have been better, he suggested, to keep the speed limit the same but increase the fines for speeding in school areas — similar to law the province introduced to protect construction workers and emergency personnel from speeders.
Montague said another option would be to better enforce no-parking and no-stopping zones outside of schools where stopped vehicles narrow the path for passing cars and limit lines of sight.
When asked whether the reduced speed zones were needed, Montague said that’s debatable. He’s not aware of any serious incident in which a student was struck by a car.
According to Brandon Sun archives, two children were killed by vehicles in recent years, but neither incident was outside a school.
The closest fatality to a school that could be found was in March 1991, when a five-year-old boy was hit on Knowlton Drive after walking into traffic from between parked cars in front of the Sportsplex near Kirkcaldy Heights School.
That was on a Sunday.
BPS Chief Ian Grant said he didn’t have statistics for the number of collisions and their severity involving pedestrians outside of schools.
However, collisions that happened near schools — which may or may not have involved pedestrians — were examined.
But crash statistics don’t tell the whole story, Grant said. Rather, the inspiration behind the new zones was a concern for the safety of children and evidence that people struck by cars at lower speeds are more likely to survive.
One study by Safe Kids Canada, for example, shows that a child hit by a car going 50 km/h has an 80 per cent chance of being killed. However, a child hit by a car going 30 km/h has a 95 per cent chance of survival.
Bylaw officers regularly warn drivers about areas where they shouldn’t park outside schools and a lower speed limit should serve to enhance that safety effort, Grant said.
When it comes to signage, a provincial spokesperson said the provincial standards for school zone signs follow national standards which have been adopted by the city.
Grant said he expects drivers will learn to expect school zones, and their standard dates and times, so he doesn’t believe distraction will be a big issue.
In the coming months, the force plans to work with the Brandon School Division to remind the public of new speed zones.
» Twitter: @IanHitchen