Back to school season will be fraught with worry for some parents, politicians and safety advocates, thanks to a perceived problem around London's schools: Drivers won’t slow down.
Despite a city council move to reduce speed limits in school zones to 40 kilometres/hour more than a year ago, many say that little has changed. One city councillor said speeding is now among London’s most pressing concerns - writes lfpress.
“About 10 years ago, we had problems with guns and graffiti. Now, we have problems with speeding. That’s the biggest complaint I get,” Coun. Harold Usher said. “People don’t respect the speed limit, and they don’t respect the stop sign.”
Usher said he believes drivers frequently travel 70 or 80 km/h in areas with 50 km/h limits.
Usher considers the issue is so serious that he’s planning to host a public meeting with police, city staff and residents later this fall to address speeding and possible solutions.
This is the first September since council ordered new 40 km/h speed signs be posted in London school zones. Some areas already have new signage – and all the city’s school zones should see the new limits in place within a year as part of a phased-in approach – but some residents say they don’t see much of an impact.
“I don’t think the signs have been very effective at all,” said Sarah Thomson, president of the Thames Valley Council of Home and School Associations. “People completely ignore signs.”
The council advocates for student safety, especially on the walk to school.
But what should be a leisurely morning and afternoon jaunt can be treacherous when drivers whip through residential streets, Thomson said. She hears this all the time from families, and sees it herself.
“In my neighbourhood, I can’t count how many times I’ve seen people that are not paying attention and going too fast, and even going through the school bus arm. Even when they get honked at, they keep going as if nothing really happened,” said Thomson, who lives near Wilfrid Jury elementary school.
Thomson credits a crossing guard with having the biggest impact on the neighbourhood. She'd also like to see a stronger police presence during drop-off and pick-up times.
London police will be on city streets during the first week of classes.
“There will be increased enforcement in all the school zones, and our uniformed officers will be down in all the school areas on patrol,” Const. Matt Hopkins said of the police department’s back-to-school strategy.
Speeding remains a big issue and drivers need to adjust, especially as students return to school, he said.
“We’re asking everybody to slow down and be cognizant that there are going to be a lot of people, higher volume, getting in and out of vehicles, walking their children to school. We ask everyone to slow down and be cautious,” Hopkins said.
A hospital is wading into the discussion. London Health Sciences Centre issued a statement urging drivers to be “extra vigilant” on the roads and avoid distractions – not just texting, but fiddling with the radio or putting on makeup, too.
“A few seconds of distraction can be the difference between seeing a child running onto the road and stopping your car safely, or being unaware and injuring that child," hospital officials said.
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