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Why are school-zone signs so confusing?

September 6, 2016

By Steve Wallace
Times Colonist, August 26th 2016

Only school-zone signs with a lower speed limit physically attached are legally binding — those without are merely warnings. Steve Wallace argues B.C. needs clearer school-zone signs.

A reader of this column suggests these types of signs are confounding to the average driver.
I wholeheartedly agree. It is long past time to end the confusion and danger to our students in British Columbia.

Most school-zone signs do not include a posting of the hours of enforcement.
Visitors to our province must play some sort of guessing game when they approach schools.
The hours of enforcement should be plainly visible on every school-zone sign.
Is the sign in effect all summer? Where does the zone end?

Many jurisdictions throughout North America post the days and hours of enforcement on each and every sign, as well as the speed limit.
They often have a flashing light assembly on the school zone sign.
Zones are in effect when amber lights are flashing.

Our system in B.C. borders on the ridiculously ineffective and misleading.
School-zone signs with no speed attached are not in effect, but only a casual warning of a possible presence of the student population.
Only signs with the speed (30 km/h) attached are the law. Knowing where the school zone ends is a mystery to many drivers.
Police enforce the speed zone from the sign on the driver’s side of the road to the unmarked back of the school zone sign on the other side of the road, facing oncoming traffic.
This system is as goofy as it gets.

A simple addition of an end of school zone tab on the sign designating the limits of enforcement would end the confusion among drivers.
Nanaimo does it: Why can’t we all follow their lead? The school-zone signs are only in effect on statutory school days (approximately 193 days a year).
All summer long, students have been attending our schools for various reasons without the legal protection of a school speed zone.
Private schools and those public schools are not protected by enforceable school zones when they deviate from these statutory designation days.

Many schools are now designated as community centres and should more properly be identified by playground signs.
These signs are in effect from dawn to dusk every day of the year, when displaying a 30 km/h tab below the diamond shape of the yellow sign.
As mentioned in a previous column, Alberta has only playground signs, since children in most areas of the province use the education facilities after school hours and on weekends.

A regular reader of this column has a few logical suggestions.
He wants to follow the Hawaiian example of activated flashing lights when the school zones are in effect.
This system gives drivers a clear message. Having drivers go slow when all students are in class seems odd to him.
The ability to alter timing of zones is what he would like addressed.

In fact, there have been amendments to legislation allowing individual school districts in B.C. to alter the standard 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. enforcement times, when they post these altered times on the school-zone signs.
The Cariboo Chilcotin School District does just that, since school start times are well before 8 a.m. each school day.

Another school year will be upon us within a few days. Yet another year has gone by without any regulatory changes to our ineffective, confusing system of school-zone designation.
We have once again lived up to the moniker “Backward Columbia.”

Until things change, please be extra vigilant when entering and leaving school zones.
Kids will be kids, and no family wants to go through the horrendous stress of a school zone pedestrian vehicle crash.

 

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