Toronto

Toronto drivers speeding near schools 21% of the time, city data reveals

Around 21 per cent of vehicles tracked by radar in Toronto school zones have exceeded the speed limit since 2018, a CBC News analysis of city data reveals. On some roads, the overall rate of speeding was as high as 85 per cent. 

Drivers caught speeding more than 85% of the time near school at Jane and Bloor

Drivers in Toronto have gone over the speed limit near schools around 21 per cent of the time since 2018, a CBC News analysis of city data reveals. On some roads, the overall rate of speeding was as high as 85 per cent.  (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Toronto students have plenty on their plates this year amid the pandemic. But there's another pre-existing threat still looming over the school year: speeding drivers.

Around 21 per cent of vehicles tracked by radar in Toronto school zones have exceeded the speed limit since 2018, a CBC News analysis of city data reveals. 

On some roads, the overall rate of speeding was as high as 85 per cent. 

That's alarming but unsurprising to road safety advocate Jessica Spieker, a member of an organization called Friends & Families for Safer Streets.

"We know that vehicle speed is a function of the design of a road, and has very little to do with the actual posted speed limit," she said.

CBC News analyzed several years' worth of data from more than 500 speed display signs in school zones, which use radar to measure the speeds of oncoming vehicles and show those speeds on an LED sign as a reminder to slow down if needed. 

While it's been dubbed the "Watch Your Speed Program," the numbers show a substantial portion of drivers aren't heeding that call — but it varies greatly depending on the road.

Speeding, according to the city data, means any driver going at least five kilometres per hour above the posted limit.

85% of drivers caught speeding near Jane and Bloor streets

CBC Toronto analyzed the speeds of more than 700 million passing cars captured by the city since January 2018.

In some areas, drivers stayed at or close to the posted speed limit, while in others, a majority drove faster, according to the data.

At least 60 per cent of drivers were caught speeding by the school-zone speed display signs in a dozen locations, the figures show, with the worst stretch near the sign posted on Jane Street just north of Bloor Street West. 

At that location, right near Saint Pius X Catholic School, drivers were caught speeding more than 85 per cent of the time — beyond the posted 60 km/h limit.

Stretches of road along Morningside Avenue, Jane Street, and Waldock Street experienced the highest proportion of excessive speeders, meaning people driving at least 50 per cent above the posted limit.

According to Spieker, city officials need to ramp up their Vision Zero efforts to redesign roadways, as part of the city campaign to end all road deaths.

"Make the lane width match the designed speed that you want," she said.

Road safety advocate Albert Koehl agreed many of those streets experiencing speeding are "designed" for drivers to go fast, including many that include straightaways or four lanes of traffic, rather than arterial roads.

Speed signs can be less of a deterrent than the actual road design itself, he noted, with visual cues like wide straightaways encouraging drivers to speed up, while narrower roads encourage motorists to drive more carefully. 

Concrete bump-outs, protected bike lanes, or other narrowing features are all ways to slow traffic down, Spieker said.

School safety zones, with lowered speed limits and increased signage, are found in neighbourhoods across Toronto. (Yanjun Li/CBC News)

Mayor 'shocked' by speeding rates

When asked about the data on Monday, Mayor John Tory said he was "shocked" at the high rates of speeding in some areas, and said the city is also looking at those numbers.

Tory also expressed hope a more recent photo radar project to catch speeding drivers would offer a deterrent.

The program involved the installation of 50 automated speed enforcement (ASE) cameras — two for each city ward — in December.

After a months-long warning period, the devices started issuing speeding tickets in July, with thousands of drivers already caught speeding.

The highest speed detected during the first two weeks was 89 km/h on Renforth Drive near Lafferty Street, where the posted speed limit is 40 km/h. That camera also issued the highest fine of close to $720. 

"People just have to change their behaviour," Tory said. "And I'm hopeful automated speed enforcement will do the trick, but it will take time to take effect."

Spieker isn't convinced it's worth the wait, with road design changes achievable even faster if there is "political will."

"We really need to work harder and faster," she said.

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