An incident involving a vehicle and two young students in front of Kirkcaldy Heights School has helped shed light on the need for reduced school zone speed limits in Brandon.
At approximately 8:30 a.m. on Feb. 18, the Brandon Police Service was informed of an incident where a driver slid through a crosswalk on Knowlton Drive, at an "exceptionally slow rate of speed and then came in contact with two students," Sgt. Kevin Loewen told the Sun. Loewen added there were "no injuries whatsoever" and the only immediate action taken was street sanding.
"Witnesses indicated it appeared the driver was using as much care as could be expected, it was just exceptionally slippery," Loewen said.
After hearing from a number of concerned ward residents about road and traffic safety in front of Kirkcaldy School, Coun. Jeff Fawcett (Assiniboine) enquired about installing crossing lights at the intersections of Kirkham Crescent and Knowlton Drive as well as Knowlton Drive and Braecrest Drive during city council’s Feb. 18 meeting.
City manager Scott Hildebrand later followed up on the request saying that a functional crosswalk already exists at this location and crossing lights would be positioned too close to the three-way stop, "which potentially could lead to traffic issues and bigger pedestrian safety concerns."
Fawcett said while he understands crossing lights may not work in that particular area, a reduced school zone speed limit would.
"It would work around Kirkcaldy, being that there’s a three-way stop, so you’re slowing down to stop anyway," Fawcett said. "It’s not necessarily anything new, but we are trying to look for solutions."
Amendments to the Highway Traffic Act now provide local governments with the authority to set lower speed limits in school zones.
All municipalities, including local government districts, First Nations and community councils, now have the legal ability to set the maximum speed limits as low as 30 km/h in school zones where the regularly posted speed is less than 80 km/h.
Maximum speed limits as low as 50 km/h in school zones can also be set where the regularly posted speed is 80 km/h or higher. Reduced speed zones are limited to streets and highways within school property and the designated zone must be within 150 metres of that property’s boundary.
Loewen said the city is currently reviewing its traffic bylaw and all school zones within the Brandon School Division are being considered for reduced speed limits.
"We’re in the stage now where we need to tabulate how many signs we would need and where the placement would be," Loewen said. "Through early discussions, you would see a reduced speed zone at every school in some fashion."
Designating specific dates and hours when reduced speed limits are in effect or setting the limits to be in effect at all times or during certain months of the year will also be part of the implementation process, Loewen said.
Loewen admits "it’s a long process" and couldn’t predict when motorists could start seeing changes.
Winter conditions also present an entirely new set of challenges for school zone safety, Fawcett said. Although the majority of schools have trained student street patrols, cold weather this year has often kept them indoors. And high snowbanks in these areas can make it difficult for motorists to see young students crossing the road.
"We’re trying to make sure those things are knocked down the best we can," Fawcett said. "Schools of course are a higher priority because there is a lot of people and a lot of traffic at peak times but it’s kind of a concern for all roads."
In an emailed statement to the Sun, Kirkcaldy School principal Nancy Hamilton said they are continuing to work with the City of Brandon and BPS "to ensure the safety of students walking to school is at the highest level possible."
Hamilton added it’s important drivers "slow down and be vigilant when driving near schools."