Important reminder about school zone safety as kids return to class

Red Deer students head back to school on Thursday

As students in Red Deer and area head back to school on Thursday, the RCMP want to remind drivers to be cognizant of school zone times and the speed limit within them.

“For the month of September, we are going to be focusing for the most part on school zones,” said Cpl. Michael Zufferli, with the RCMP City traffic section. “It’s a big change. People have had two months off from school and they forget the importance of school zones. Especially with kids, they don’t have that situational awareness for cars that you develop when you get a little bit older.”

Zufferli added it is not just speeding that will be enforced, but other driving infractions as well.

“It is important that we spend as much time as we can in the school zones. The majority of our active enforcement will be in school zones for the month of September, specifically targeting speed. Obviously there’s other hazards in school zones – people using their cell phones, looking down and texting – they are all very hazardous things to do because kids have that linear focus and they don’t always stop to look. It can only take a second and you don’t want it to be a fatal mistake that you carry with you for the rest of your life.

“I think the main thing to realize is the reason we lower the speed in school zones is it significantly increases the stopping distance of a person’s vehicle. Your reaction time, say if you are doing 50 kilometres per hour compared to 30, is greater than double and the breaking distance is significantly increased. Modern vehicles have improved greatly with their safety features – people haven’t. Now everyone is carrying around a cell phone that plays Netflix and does Skype chat and everyone is more distracted.

“It’s really important that everyone slows down to 30 (km/hr) and gives that opportunity to react, to brake and to stop that vehicle. Essentially Kindergarten kids up to about 14 years are at the greatest risk of pedestrian-related deaths. It has to do with them being smaller and shorter. Being Alberta we have our fair share of increased sized trucks and it is that much more dangerous because you can’t see the kids. Kids sometimes assume a car is going to stop if they step out and that is not always the case.”

Meanwhile, the City of Red Deer changed the school and playground zone times earlier this month to help drivers more easily remember the times they are in effect.

School zones are in effect from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on school days, while playground zones are in effect from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day.

To make the changes easier for drivers, all signs are now equipped with a time tab noting the effective times of that zone. The speed limit in school and playground zones will continue to be 30 km/hr during effective hours.

“It might be a learning curve for some, but safety-wise it should increase safety in our school zones and I think everyone can agree that is the main thing we’re aiming for,” said Zufferli.