Drivers taking it slow
Study finds speed reduction, fewer pedestrians struck since playground zone reform
The city’s decision to harmonize school and playground zones resulted in drivers slowing down and may have contributed to fewer overall collisions in Calgary, according to a new study.
The University of Calgary study looked at speeds, collision rates and overall compliance and awareness of the rules before and after the implementation of the city’s standardized approach to school and playground zones in 2014.
The average speed decreased from 35.9 km/h to 30.1 km/h in playground and school zones after the changes, according to the analysis of city data.
The collision rate across the city also decreased during that time.
“How can you not be happy with those results?” said Coun. Shane Keating, chair of the city’s transportation committee. “It just means the safety is that much better.”
In 2014, the city dropped school zones and replaced them with playground zones in effect from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. all year, with a speed limit of 30 km/h. The city allocated $545,000 for new signage in Calgary’s 180 school zones and those changes were completed by fall 2015.
The traffic study, published on the city’s website, suggests changes to the traffic rules succeeded in reducing speeds.
Researchers gathered data on driver speeds from 11 playground zones and 18 school zones throughout the city between September 2013 and June 2017.
The data found that the average speeds were “significantly less” following the policy change.
The study also looked at data on collisions, suggesting the new consistent zone times “might have helped” to reduce the collision rate.
And fewer pedestrians under the age of 16 years old were involved in collisions three years after the new policy was implemented, the study found.
When council first began debating the changes, concerns were raised by Mayor Naheed Nenshi and others about the rules going too far, requiring drivers to slow down even when school wasn’t in session.
“I know a lot of people were initially worried about (extending) later in the evenings and going all year, rather than just school days,” Keating said.
“But I think this shows that once the confusion is gone, you get into a pattern of behaviour and that pattern of behaviour has certainly improved the safety across the city.”
Before 2014, there were different rules for the different zones and drivers would have to adjust their speed in playground zones depending when sunset occurred.
A survey completed as part of the study published this month suggested the changes made it easier for drivers to remember the rules.
More than 80 per cent of respondents found it easier to remember the zone times when there was only one time that was consistent throughout the week, according to the study.
Keating said he’s seen two pedestrian deaths in his ward since he was elected and he encourages drivers to slow down in all residential areas, not just playground zones.
“You don’t want to see those,” Keating said. “And it’s not just the deaths, but the injuries as well.” “The way I look at it is, it’s such a small thing in our behaviour as a driver to watch out for pedestrians in residential areas.”
That pattern of behaviour has certainly improved the safety across the city.” Ward 12 Coun. Shane Keating
Calgary’s move to harmonize lower-speed school and playground zones has resulted in speed reductions and fewer collisions, says a University of Calgary report presented to city hall.