The motivation for conducting the poll on school zone speed limits was two-fold. First, I was curious as to how many people were of the opinion that the current speed limit provisions were appropriate and how many felt they should be lowered. Secondly, I was curious as to how many people would like to see some form of evidence that a change was needed as opposed to simply relying on the opinion of politicians or the police.
The results were as follows: 35% of respondents had their minds made up and supported the proposed change without the need for any further evidence to support such a move. On the other end of the spectrum 13% were prepared to leave the limits as they are. The remaining 52% would like to see data as to the difference in accident rates between Winnipeg and other cities that have a 30KPH limits (30%) or they would like to see evidence that we currently have a problem with speeding and accidents involving children in school zones (22%). N=60.
That means that a full 65% of respondents don’t agree with the Chief of Police that it’s a ‘no brainer‘.
Now let me throw a couple of wrinkles into the debate.
The current speed limit in school zones is based on the posted limit on the street where the school is located. Some schools are located on residential streets where the speed limit is 50KPH. Others including both middle grade and high schools are located on major thoroughfares such as Portage Avenue, St. Marys Road, Main Street and Pembina Highway where the speed limit is 60 KPH. Would it be appropriate to reduce speeds by half from 60 to 30 KPH in these streets?
The second wrinkle is the effect of already existing legislation. Although there are speed limits, Section 95 (3) of the Highway Traffic specifically addresses situations where children are either on or near a roadway. It says:
Reasonable and prudent speed
95(3) No person shall drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent or in a manner that is not reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing; and, without restricting the generality of the foregoing, no person shall drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed otherwise permitted under this Act where
(a) the presence of a child on or near the highway, whether or not he is in close proximity to the grounds of a school building or a playground, dictates, in the interest of safety, a slower speed or the temporary stopping of a vehicle; or
(b) any factor exists in the face of which failure to reduce that speed, or to stop the vehicle temporarily, constitutes a danger to any person or property visible to the driver.
(source: Manitoba Highway Traffic Act)
What this means is that police already have the authority to ticket drivers in school zones who are driving faster than the existing condition would make it prudent even if they are complying with the posted speed limit.
If speeding in school zones and safety are such a burning issue that the mayor is demanding the province make the amendments to the Highway Traffic Act right now, then why are police not enforcing the existing provision of the Highway Traffic Act in the interim?
Could it be that it’s about revenue under the guise of safety?
If the Mayor and the Chief of Police can convince the province to lower the speed limit they can then deploy their mobile revenue generating units (photo radar) and make a killing, at least in the short-term until drivers become accustomed to the new limits, especially in areas where the reduction would be 100% , from 60 to 30 KPH.
Funny that this whole issue should come to the fore when the city is looking at ways to cut budgets (or raise revenues). I’m sure it’s just a coincidence.
Call me old-fashioned but I side with the province on this one in terms of ‘studying’ the issue before making the decision.
If the data supports the need for such a change I’m certain most Winnipegers would support it.
By the way, where is the data on this issue? Two possibilities are likely. The mayor and the chief of police have not asked for it, or they have asked for it but it does not support their position. Despite the fact that in its strategic plan the Police Service purports to be committed to intelligence led and evidence based policing, there is no evidence such an approach is being implemented in this case. As one of my colleagues used to say, ‘why confuse the issue with facts’.