Drivers are still not complying with the city’s new school zone hours, according to the Calgary Police Services.
The Calgary police have issued 41 per cent more playground zone speeding tickets since the changeover last November The Calgary Police have made enforcing the new playground zones a priority, said Staff Sgt. Paul Stacey.
The changeover means all school zones now have the same hours as playground zones. Drivers cannot exceed 30 km/h and from 7:30 am to 9 pm all year round.
Other changes approved by the city council on July 22, 2014, include zones now in effect seven days a week, rather than just Monday through Friday and not just during the school year but all year round.
Calgary police will continue the focus on safety within playground zones throughout 2016, he said.
The transition from school zones to playground zones began in Aug. 2015, and cost taxpayers approximately $545,000.
There are approximately 1,500 existing playground zones and 180 school zones in Calgary. These zones are placed in areas where there is a higher than average likelihood of children being present.
“Children are unpredictable by nature and don’t always put their own safety first when in and around roadways,” Stacey said. “For that reason there needs to be a special onus on drivers in these areas to be acutely aware of their surroundings and slow down.”
According to numbers released by the Calgary police, 1,400 traffic tickets were issued in the first week of school in 2015. In order to further increase pedestrian safety, Calgary police have ramped up efforts to make sure Calgarians know to slow down.
It doesn’t stop with a hefty fine, but demerit points are also given to all speeding violations as well.
The “yycsaferoads” hashtag on Twitter aims to spread the message: Slowing down from 50 km/h to 30 km/h in playground zones will add only 4 –10 seconds to motorist’s commutes.
A pedestrian hit at 50 km/h only has a 20 per cent chance of survival, whereas a pedestrian hit at 30 km/h has a 90 per cent chance of survival.
The Calgary Police are seeing speeding infractions occurring all throughout the reduced-speed range (7:30am – 9 pm), with no particular spike on any specific time of day.
Many drivers question the new school zone change, deeming it insignificant. Joyce Gardam, director of Safety City for the Calgary Safety Council, is concerned as to why there are playground zones after 5 p.m. in the winter time when it is usually dark and cold. “It would be unusual for kids to be playing in a playground at this time of day,” said Gardam.
But for the City of Calgary that time of the day is still a risk. According to their website approximately 20 per cent of pedestrian collisions in playground zones occur between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.. As days become shorter, it becomes increasingly difficult for motorists to see pedestrians, particularly in the evenings.
Tony Churchill Senior Traffic Safety Engineer for the City of Calgary, said that the most important aspect in terms of changing drivers’ behaviours is changing social norms about speeding and increasing awareness.
There are a number of things that communities can do in order to improve safety for pedestrians:
• Spread awareness throughout the community via newsletters, pamphlets, etc.
• Report community traffic concerns/apply for a community traffic study through Traffic Service Request forms available on the City of Calgary website.
• Report speeding concerns or dangerous driving to the Calgary Police Service non-emergency line at 403-266-1234
• Contact your district office and speak with a Community Liaison Officer.
The ultimate goal is to reduce the negative effects of motor vehicle use, alter driver behaviour and improve conditions for non-motorized street users.
For more information about the school zone change, including how to request a playground zone in your area, individuals are advised to visit the City of Calgary’s playground zones web page.
- By Leonie Fairhurst