CAA, police spot 548 instances of dangerous driving in school zones

The Canadian Automobile Association conducted its sixth annual test to see whether Winnipeggers slow down in school zones — and drivers flunked.

Winnipeg Transit bus, dog in the driver's seat among infractions caught by annual safety campaign

Const. Rich Aminot monitors drivers' speeds in a Winnipeg school zone on Wednesday morning. (Meaghan Ketcheson/CBC)

The Canadian Automobile Association conducted its sixth annual test Wednesday to see whether Winnipeggers slow down in school zones — and drivers flunked.

In just nine minutes, police Const. Rich Aminot nabbed seven drivers going faster than the posted 30 kilometres per hour speed limit. Over the course of two-hour safety awareness event, CAA said it caught 548 instances of dangerous driving. The fastest vehicle reached 65 km/h in the 30 km/h zone.
Cars stopped as part of CAA's campaign Wednesday. (Meaghan Ketcheson/CBC)

What Winnipeggers were caught doing in school zones, as reported by CAA:

  • A driver was seen with dog in lap while driving.
  • Distracted cycling: someone biking and texting at the same time.
  • A woman smoking with a young child in a car seat, which is against the law.
  • A Winnipeg Transit bus caught going more than 40 km/h in a 30 km/h school zone, confirmed by a Winnipeg police traffic unit with a laser speed reader.
  • A teenager walking across the intersection with headphones on, unaware of an ambulance with sirens on headed straight toward the teen.
  • Two drivers crossed the yellow line to pass cars in the left lane on Mountain Avenue, just before traffic lights, putting pedestrians and drivers at risk of injury and accident.

CAA, police and volunteers were watching for risky driving in three Winnipeg school zones: around St. Ignatius School, Whyte Ridge Elementary and Faraday School.

A total of 76 drivers were caught speeding, while 37 were caught distracted driving. Dozens more failed to stop at crosswalks and stop signs and others used driveways to drop off passengers and turn around.

Risky drivers caught in school zones

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CAA, police spot 548 instances of dangerous driving in school zones 1:11

Resident fed up with speeders

Andrew Huhn, who lives in an area where CAA and police were stationed, said drivers, including parents of students, routinely ignore school zone speed limits.

"There's going to be a child that's going to get injured or killed on this corner," he said.

When police are in the area, drivers tend to improve their behaviour, Huhn said.

"It seems that the people know when the vehicles are there and they slow down, and as soon as they're gone, it's like a freeway."

No real improvement this year: CAA

Mike Mager, president of CAA Manitoba, said the organization was hoping to see a dramatic reduction in offences, but it appears drivers are not getting the message.

"The whole idea behind this is just to draw awareness to the fact that you've got to be careful around schools," he said.

"Children are unpredictable. They don't understand like we do to watch for traffic."

Last year, CAA observed 1,600 instances of risky driving behaviour in school zones during the same annual survey.

While this year's numbers were down, Mager said the amount of speeding and distracted driving this year remains "unbelievable." He hopes government does more to remind drivers they are entering a school zone.

"We've talked to the province, we've talked to the city about finding ways to put lights [up] or something to draw your attention," he said. "Make those signs visible." 

CAA noted volunteers collect data for their school zone safety campaign at different locations every year, so they don't directly compare numbers from year to year.

Lower speeds protect pedestrians

The World Health Organization reports pedestrians have a 90 per cent chance of survival when hit by a car travelling 30 km/h, but the survival rate goes down significantly when a car is travelling faster.

People have a 50 per cent chance of surviving if a car is going 45 km/h and almost no chance if the vehicle is travelling 80 km/h or faster. 

A poll in 2015 found most Winnipeggers are against slower speed limits in school zones.

​From September to June, drivers in Winnipeg school zones are not allowed to drive faster than 30 km/h. During the school year, tickets for school zone speeders range from $181 to $312.

Penalties for distracted driving in Manitoba are among the toughest in Canada — five demerits and a $200 fine. Drivers who already have between 10 and 15 demerits pay between $542 and $3,200 depending on their record.

with files from Meaghan Ketcheson