Driver behaviour was scrutinized in a handful of Winnipeg school zones on Wednesday with more than 1,500 instances counted.

Brian Kussin

Brian Kussin, a teacher at Mulvey School, marks down infractions. (Meaghan Ketcheson/CBC)

​CAA Manitoba, with the help of Winnipeg police, conducted its fourth annual Back to School Safety Assessment, to examine and bring attention to risky driving habits.

Three schools were targeted this year in the two-hour assessment: Mulvey School in Wolseley, Grosvenor School in River Heights, and Samuel Burland School in South St. Vital. 

Officers checked speeds while CAA officials and school volunteers kept track of things like people texting, putting on makeup, or passing stopped school buses — all infractions caught in past assessments.

In those past, an average of 1,600 infractions were noticed, according to CAA.

On Wednesday, the total count was 1,531 infractions. Among those were the following:

  • Distracted driving: 98 instances​
  • Failing to stop at a stop line: 346
  • Failing to obey road signs: 116​
  • Changing lanes illegally: 214
  • Speeding: 172
  • Unsafe drop-off: 56

Other unusual things noticed by the assessment spotters:

  • A woman driver brushing her teeth
  • A man riding a bike while a child ride in the front basket. Neither was wearing a helmet.
  • A car stopped at school, all four doors opened and kids jumped out without looking into street. 
  • Drivers taking up two lanes of the roadway
  • Pedestrians texting and not paying attention while crossing the street

Kristi Degenhardt, who has two children at Mulvey School, said she saw a close call with a distracted driver going through a crosswalk one year.

"I've watched a parent pull his child away from a vehicle that almost hit him when the lights were fully flashing," she said.

But this is the first year with the newly-implemented 30 km/h speed limits in the school zones. And there's some controversy surrounding them because a number of sign were posted incorrectly.

Mike Mager

Mike Mager, president of CAA Manitoba (right), says 1,600 driver infractions are found on average during the school zone safety assessment. (Meaghan Ketcheson/CBC)

According to the city bylaw, signs warning drivers of a school zone ahead must be posted 100–250 metres before the zone starts. In some areas the signs are closer to the zone than that so people are looking to have their fines dropped on a technicality.

"Well you know, I'd say it's a bunch of garbage. I think that people need to recognize they're speeding," said Mike Mager, president of CAA Manitoba.

"If you want to play on a technicality, you're getting around the whole purpose of this, which is to be safe and drive safe in a school zone."

The City of Winnipeg disagrees. Officials say the zones and signage meet provincial requirements but not all the paperwork needed to include the zones in the city's bylaws has been completed.

Until that paperwork is complete, police said tickets will be issued only in cases of excessive speed.

Const. Rick Podworny, who used a laser gun to clock speeders in front of Mulvey School, saw some cautious drivers going 20 km/h in the school zone, while others were closer to 50 km/h.

In one hour, police clocked 143 drivers by Mulvey School and of those, 71 were going over the speed limit. But there were no tickets being issued today, just warnings.

"Generally, where there's reduced speed zones, people don't pay attention to the signs. They're distracted," Podworny said. "They're thinking of things as they're driving to work and they're not paying attention to what they should be paying attention to."

Mager said the drivers on Wednesday were nothing like what he saw last year on Grant Avenue.

"I was standing right there [and] a police officer actually caught a car going 92 km/h past a school," he said. 

Results from CAA's fourth annual assessment will be released at a press conference later in the morning.