Crystal Schick/Yukon News School zone signage on Lewes Boulevard in Whitehorse on Aug. 14, 2019.

Hergott: Are school zone speed restrictions necessary?

Lawyer Paul Hergott’s latest column

School zone speed restrictions are back. But they shouldn’t be necessary. And they fail to communicate an important safety message.

They shouldn’t be necessary because other laws require us to slow to a safe speed when children are likely to be around.

The important safety message I am referring to is that those laws extend to all of our roadways, not just the areas around schools.

Notions of who has the right of way go out the window, to a certain extent, when we are sharing roadways with children.

I found this statement of the law from the highest court in Ontario, in Saumur v. Antoniak, 2016 ONCA 851 “That children lack the judgment of adults and that they are notoriously forgetful when they are distracted or confused, and therefore do not follow instructions on the basis of which “they should know better”, are concepts that are generally accepted and that have been recognized by the courts as factors distinguishing the conduct of children from that of adults in the negligence liability context”.

We can reasonably expect that adult pedestrians and cyclists will follow the rules of the road. But when it comes to children, we must expect the unexpected.

Here is a common sense statement of the law quoted from a 1995 decision of the highest court of British Columbia, Williams (Guardian ad litem of) v. Yacub (1995) 14 B.C.L.R. (3d) 291 (C.A.). “Knowing that the actions of children are unpredictable a driver has a duty to take reasonable precautions for the safety of a child on or near the highway.”

Any time you see the word “highway” in our laws and court judgements, it has an expanded meaning to include streets, laneways and almost everywhere vehicles travel.

A more detailed statement of the law can be found in a 1990 decision of the same court, Chohan v. Wayenberg, 1990 CarswellBC 863 (C.A.). “There is, of course, a need for constant vigilance for children on the roads, especially in suburban areas, for the very reason that they can not be expected always to act with the same care that is expected of adults. Once observed in a dangerous situation, children must be given special attention, so that any precautionary or evasive action indicated will be taken in time.”

That’s the key. The onus is on us as drivers to be able to take evasive action in time.

How do we ensure we can do that?

We must be continually watchful for the presence of children on or near the roadway. Not just in school zones.

Once we identify their presence, we must keep our eyes peeled, carefully watching for any clues that they might put themselves in danger.

And drive at a speed that allows us sufficient reaction time to take evasive action.

Is that speed 30 kms/hour?

It depends.

If children are milling around, that might well be too fast.

On the other hand, if children are far enough away from your lane of travel, it might not be necessary to slow down at all.

Section 144(1)(c) of the Motor Vehicle Act , gives this flexible speed limit: “A person must not drive a motor vehicle on a highway at a speed that is excessive relative to the road, traffic, visibility or weather conditions.”

Of course, slow down at least to 30 kms/hour in school zones, even if you’re driving through a wide, empty street with all children safely in their classes. Tickets aren’t nice.

But go even slower as might be necessary to absolutely ensure that you will have time to take evasive action if a child does something stupid.

Regardless of whether or not you are in a school zone.

Please help keep our children safe.

Missed last week’s column?

Hergott: ICBC fails at dismissing claim

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Blackmun Bay project in West Kelowna rejected by city councillors

Four nine-storey buildings with 700 residential and hotel units were originally planned for site along Campbell Road

‘Homes not shelters’: Those living on Kelowna streets rally for rights

On Tuesday, Leon Avenue residents came together to demand change

Two vehicle crash on Harvey Avenue

Traffic is slow going on Harvey Avenue near Cooper Road in Kelowna

Kelowna’s mayor questioned on transit, housing and quality of life

The luncheon was held at the Coast Capri Hotel in Kelowna on Tuesday

Former Kelowna Mountie has breach of trust case moved again

The former Mountie is facing seven misconduct charges from incidents during his time as an officer

‘We love you, Alex!’: Trebek gets choked up by ‘Jeopardy!’ contestant’s answer

The emotional moment came in Monday’s episode when Trebek read Dhruv Gaur’s final answer

Birthday boy: Pettersson nets 2 as Canucks beat Predators

Vancouver ends four-game winless skid with 5-3 victory over Nashville

North Okanagan councillor pitches homeless camp at city hall

805 bylaw calls in 10 months were for inappropriately set-up camps

Vernon car fire deemed suspicious

SUV found fully engulfed with nobody around at 4 a.m. Tuesday on Commonage Road

Judge rejects Terrace man’s claim that someone else downloaded child porn on his phone

Marcus John Paquette argued that other people had used his phone, including his ex-wife

Penticton arts, culture and sports programs get boost of over $500,000 thanks to provincial grant

The B.C. Community Gaming Grants program will be distributing $505,900 to 18 local groups

Okanagan school districts reach agreement with CUPE Local 523

The union represents members who provide a variety of services to support students

North Okanagan motorists advised of road disruptions

Silver Star Road work scheduled for Thursday

Petition for free hospital parking presented to MP Jody Wilson-Raybould

What started as a B.C. campaign became a national issue, organizer said

Most Read