School Zones and the Traffic Safety Act

·6 min read

“Slow and steady wins the A’s in school zones” is the theme of SGI’s September traffic message. Students have been back at school for a couple of weeks already, but that is no reason to think that driving while in school zones shouldn’t need a driver’s full attention. “There’s a lot going on within a school zone,” said JP Cullen, Chief Operating Officer of SGI Auto Fund in a press release earlier this month. “We have students of all ages entering and exiting buses, playing on playgrounds and walking or running in crosswalks and pedestrian crossings.” School zone traffic safety laws are there for the sole purpose of ensuring the safety of children in and around schools and playgrounds. Sgt. Von Niessen of the Wakaw RCMP detachment said far too many drivers in Wakaw are not adhering to the school zone traffic laws and the time of warnings and reminders is quickly coming to an end.

While vehicle-pedestrian collisions are thankfully rare, they can and do happen in urban centres of all different sizes and in all cases, the child comes out on the losing end of the collision. A license to drive a motor vehicle is not a right, it is a privilege and going hand-in-hand with that privilege is the responsibility to know and follow the rules of the road. Taken directly from the Traffic Safety Act, I have underlined a few key issues.

Traffic Safety Act T-18.1

Part One

Interpretation 2(1) In this Act:

(k) “highway” means a road, parkway, driveway, square or place designed and intended for or used by the general public for the passage of vehicles

DIVISION 4: Safety Lights and School Buses

212(2) No driver of a vehicle proceeding in the same direction on a highway as a school bus that has its safety lights in operation shall pass the school bus. (3) No driver of a vehicle proceeding in the same direction on a highway as a school bus that is stopped and that has its safety lights and stop arm in operation shall: (a) fail to stop at least five metres from the rear of the school bus; or (b) proceed until the operation of the safety lights and stop arm has been discontinued

(4) If a school bus is stopped and has its safety lights and stop arm in operation, no driver of a vehicle that is approaching the school bus from the opposite direction on a highway, other than a divided highway, shall: (a) fail to stop at least five metres from the front of the school bus; or (b) proceed until the operation of the safety lights and stop arm has been discontinued. (5) Any person who contravenes subsection (2), (3) or (4) is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine of not more than $1,000.

Section 4 above means that no vehicles should be driving past the buses from either direction when they are parked at the school for loading or unloading as there is no physical divide separating the buses from other vehicular traffic.

SGI has announced that new penalties for stunting and street racing are being introduced and will come into effect on October 1.The cost of a ticket for stunting in a motor vehicle increases to $580 (from $150), plus four demerit points. The ticket for street racing will be $580 (from $205) and escalate for repeat offences within a one-year period ($1,400 for a second offence, and $2,100 for a third). All offences also include four demerit points.

Even prior to the new penalties, a ticket for street racing resulted in an immediate, 30-day vehicle impoundment, while repeat offences for stunting resulted in a three-day impoundment. The second phase of the legislation change, which will take effect at a later date, will implement both 30-day vehicle impoundments and immediate seven-day licence suspensions for stunting, racing and exceeding the speed limit by more than 50 km/h or by more than double the posted limit.

The Traffic Safety Act now includes updated language which defines stunting and racing to include the following behaviours:

Racing

• Racing side-by-side with another vehicle while disobeying the speed limit;

• Chasing another vehicle;

• Speeding in and out of lanes to unsafely pass vehicles;

• Driving at a speed that is a marked departure from the speed limit.

Stunting

• Attempting to lift some or all tires from the roadway (including driving a motorcycle on one wheel);

• Attempting to spin a vehicle to cause it to spin or circle;

• Driving a vehicle while not sitting in the driver’s seat;

• Driving in the oncoming lane longer than is needed to pass;

• Driving a vehicle in a way that prevents another vehicle from passing;

•Stopping or slowing down to interfere with the movement of another vehicle.

The Saskatchewan government expanded the powers of conservation officers and commercial vehicle enforcement officers in August 2017. Then Justice Minister, Gordon Wyant, hoped a new team would improve police response times in rural areas, reduce vehicle collisions, increase road safety, and increase drug enforcement on provincial roads and highways. Under the plan, the province launched a protection and response team made up of 120 RCMP and municipal police officers, 98 provincial conservation officers (COs) and 40 commercial vehicle enforcement officers (CVEOs) with the province's Ministry of Highways. The Rural Response Team was part of the province's efforts to address rural crime and police response times. A key part of the rural crime prevention plan called for all members of the unit to be armed, and for all members to have the power to detain and arrest people. All Conservation Officers are required as part of their training, to meet provincial training standards as set by the Saskatchewan Police Commission, which includes annual certification in defensive tactics, and proficiency in the use of their sidearm and shotgun. This certification is on par with other law enforcement agencies across the province.

This stemmed from a March 2017, SARM resolution passed at its yearly convention that called on the government to make laws that would allow rural residents more rights to protect their property. The resolution was put forward seven months after the death of Colten Boushie, who was killed Aug. 9, 2016, on a farm near Biggar, Sask. Lionel Story, a councillor in the R.M. of Kindersley, where the resolution originated, said at the time the resolution was not inspired by the shooting death of Colten Boushie.

Another clarification that bears addressing is the role of the Saskatoon Police Service in policing in rural areas. Combined Traffic Services Saskatchewan (CTSS) is, as the name suggests, a combined traffic enforcement unit with a Provincial mandate consisting of members from the RCMP and municipal police services. CTSS was established in 2014 in response to recommendations made by the Special Committee on Traffic Safety. It is funded by the Government of Saskatchewan and Saskatchewan Government Insurance and is composed of Members of the RCMP and various Municipal Police Services. This includes Estevan Police, Moose Jaw Police, Prince Albert Police, Regina Police, Saskatoon Police & Weyburn Police. These municipal members have legislative authority province-wide whether it be on the highway, a gravel road, or within the limits of a town.

As a result of these legislative changes that came into effect more than five years ago, any law enforcement member visible on the roads is able to enforce the Criminal Code, Alcohol and Gaming Regulations, and the Traffic Safety Act among others.

Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wakaw Recorder