Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Danger in city school zones

Drivers disobey laws during 90-minute surveillance

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If the City of Winnipeg wants a surefire revenue source to fund crumbling infrastructure, it might want to station police officers in school zones.

In a 90-minute span Wednesday morning, nearly 1,700 examples of risky and law-breaking behaviour were observed by CAA Manitoba officials, Winnipeg police officers, volunteers, teachers and principals near Montrose, Polson and Pacific Junction schools.

The lowlights of CAA Manitoba's third annual school-zone assessment included one driver who sped through a 50 kilometre-per-hour zone at 77 km/h, another who was texting at a red light and didn't look up as the light turned green and he drove forward, and still another who was focused on her rear-view mirror as she applied her make-up.

Mike Mager, president and CEO of CAA Manitoba, said near-misses don't seem to have any effect on drivers and he's afraid the only thing that might get them to pay proper attention and slow down is a fatality.

'Drivers don't watch for kids... Sometimes they're too impatient and they don't wait for (pedestrians) to cross. They just go ahead' -- Dalia Revidad, who walks her three kids to and from âcole Victoria Albert School in the inner city

That almost came to pass at the exact same time as CAA conducted its survey as a 10-year-old boy was rushed to hospital in critical condition after being hit by a van just before 9 a.m. near the corner of Westminster Avenue and Langside Street.

The boy's condition was unknown at press time.

Mager said provincial legislation that would lower the speed limit in school zones to 30 km/h "can't come soon enough." Most other provinces have such legislation, he said.

What's particularly frightening is the number of infractions and poor driving decisions occurred at just three schools. Extrapolating Wednesday's findings across the city would mean tens of thousands of dangerous-driving situations occur every day in school zones.

"Even one injury is too many," he said.

The city needs to make a better effort to identify school zones to drivers, which could include flashing lights and more signs, he said.

Staff Sgt. Rob Riffel said police officers left their ticket books in their pockets so they could concentrate on identifying and documenting as many violations as possible. (The one exception was the driver who zoomed through at 77 km/h and was pulled over.)

Riffel said 42 drivers made illegal right-hand turns toward Montrose School during the 90 minutes. At $200 per infraction, that would bring in more than $8,000, he said.

Riffel was quick to note drivers aren't always to blame for accidents and near-accidents but considering children are the other half of the equation, the impetus is on parents to teach their kids the laws of the concrete jungle.

Dalia Revidad walks her three kids to and from École Victoria Albert School in the inner city every day because she's concerned for their safety in an area she described as "accident-prone."

She said she has seen car accidents in the neighbourhood and far too many drivers who ignore the yield at the corner of Bannatyne Avenue and Ellen Street.

"This is a very dangerous area for kids. Drivers don't watch for kids. Maybe they're not in the proper mind," she said, as Allianu, 5, and Edrian, 4, tugged at her. "Sometimes they're too impatient and they don't wait for (pedestrians) to cross. They just go ahead."

Compounding the problem is a transitional housing building kitty-corner from the school, which is full of new immigrants, many of whom don't know the language or the local rules of the road.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 12, 2013 A3

History

Updated on Thursday, September 12, 2013 at 6:36 AM CDT: Replaces photo

7:35 AM: Corrects spelling of École

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