Ottawa

'Pace cars' to curb Kanata school zone speeders

Commuters may soon find traffic slower in Kanata's Bridlewood neighbourhood during the morning rush, thanks to a group of concerned parents at two local schools.
Hundreds of children walk to St. Anne Catholic School and Roch Carrier Elementary School on Stonehaven Drive each morning. ((CBC))
Commuters may soon find traffic slower in Kanata's Bridlewood neighbourhood during the morning rush, thanks to a group of concerned parents at two local schools.

The group is launching a program that designates certain cars as "pace cars" in order to make the neighbourhood safer for the hundreds of children who walk to St. Anne Catholic School and Roch Carrier Elementary School on Stonehaven Drive each morning.

The cars will work in much the same way pace cars operate on racetracks to limit the speed of racers following a crash. The cars, which will have a decal in the rear window to identify them as pace cars, will keep to the 40 kilometre per hour speed limit, forcing cars behind them to do the same.

"The idea is just to get people aware of how they're driving and to set an example," said Heather Kirk, who walks her three children, aged seven to 12, to St. Anne each day.

The group is handing out packages Tuesday and Wednesday at both St. Anne and Roch Carrier inviting parents to become pace car drivers.

Such drivers would sign a pledge saying they will:

  • Obey the speed limit.
  • Pay attention to cyclists.
  • Be respectful of other drivers.
  • Give pedestrians an opportunity to cross the road.

Like hundreds of her schoolmates, 11-year-old Chloe walks to school each day. She doesn't like walking alone, so she's accompanied by her mother Sandi Ekkebus. Once, in B.C., Chloe got hit by a car and more recently, she was nearly hit while crossing the street in the Bridlehood neighbourhood as the walk signal was lit.

"It was a red light and he just came zooming by," she recalled Tuesday.

Hundreds speed through neighbourhood: study

Decals in the back window will identify neighbourhood pace cars. ((CBC))
A recent City of Ottawa study showed that over six to seven hours on one day, 1,400 cars flowed through Stonehaven Drive in one direction, and about 1,200 of those were driving over the speed limit, Kirk said. In addition, some of them run red lights.

Things are even more hazardous on Grassy Plains Drive, which feeds onto Stonehaven. It has no stop signs and there is a sidewalk on only one side, so many children must jaywalk across the street in order to reach the sidewalk, Kirk said.

She added that some drivers reported being tailgated when they try to keep to the speed limit, and she hopes the new pace car decals will curb that kind of behaviour.

"Hopefully with this identifier, that tells people, 'OK, I'm behind a pace car, I need to calm down, I know what they're doing.'"

Parents who express interest in becoming pace car drivers will be asked to provide a driver's abstract as proof they are responsible drivers.

The decals are provided by Safe Kids Canada, based at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto, and sponsored by Johnson and Johnson. Similar programs have previously been launched in other communities in Canada and the U.S.

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