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

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

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

Okanagan Lake (File photo)
Thompson-Okanagan ready to welcome back tourists

The Thompson-Okanagan Tourism Association expects this summer to be a busy one

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison. Photo courtesy Conservative Party of Canada.
MP Morrison appointed to parliamentary national security committee

Kootenay-Columbia parliamentarian one of five candidates appointed to national security committee

(Pixabay photo)
Morning Start: Hot and cold water have different pouring sounds

Your morning start for Wednesday, June 16, 2021

A for sale sign is shown in by new homes in Beckwith, Ont., just outside Ottawa, on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Thompson-Okanagan population grew despite COVID-19: report

The Chartered Professional Accountants of BC said there are 8,462 new residents in the region

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Salmon Arm’s Brook Kosick competes in the barrel racing event at a BC High School Rodeo Association rodeo in Quesnel, which was held from June 11-13, 2021. (Cassidy Dankochik - Black Press)
VIDEO: Shuswap rodeo athlete barrels through competition

Salmon Arm rider Brook Kosick thrilled to compete in provincial finals

A vehicle was fully engulfed in flames before around 11:10 p.m. Wednesday, June 16, 2021. (Kerry Hutter - contributed)
VIDEO: Car fire snuffed in Coldstream

Vernon firefighters douse late-night fire near popular lake lookout

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

John Kromhoff with some of the many birthday cards he received from ‘pretty near every place in the world’ after the family of the Langley centenarian let it be known that he wasn’t expecting many cards for his 100th birthday. (Special to Langley Advance Times)
Cards from all over the world flood in for B.C. man’s 100th birthday

An online invitation by his family produced a flood of cards to mark his 100th birthday

FILE – Nurse Iciar Bercian prepares a shot at a vaccine clinic for the homeless in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, June 2, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
B.C. scientists to study effectiveness of COVID vaccines in people with HIV

People living with HIV often require higher doses of other vaccines

A 50-year-old woman lost control of her vehicle Tuesday, June 15, crashing through a West Vancouver school fence that surrounds playing children. (West Vancouver Police)
Driver ticketed for speeding near B.C. school crashes into playground fence days later

‘It’s an absolute miracle that nobody was injured,’ says Const. Kevin Goodmurphy

Dr. Réka Gustafson, who is British Columbia’s deputy provincial health officer, speaks during a news conference in Vancouver on April 8, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. public health officials prepare to manage COVID-19 differently in the future

Flu-like? Health officials anticipate shift from pandemic to communicable disease control strategies

Most Read