Beware potential to misinterpret

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School might well be out for summer, to paraphrase rock artist Alice Cooper, but don’t let that change your driving habits in school zones.

A fair bit of confusion surrounds the rules regarding this issue, possibly because the signs in those areas state: “when children are present.” In fact the writer of a letter to the editor a couple of months ago advised motorists that, after looking into it, she came away with the understanding that – no matter what that phrase suggests – consider it to mean 24/7, 365 days a year.

That indeed is the best way to look at it.

While the natural tendency for July and August might be to resume standard speeds, Minister of Transportation Maurice Smith said in a recent news release that people should slow down anyway. “The reduced speeds are in effect whenever children are present,” he states in the release.

The safest way to approach that open question is never to make the assumption that children aren’t likely to be in the area. Like much in life, that simply is not predictable.

The law, as it came into effect last Sept. 1, means drivers have to reduce speed in school areas to 30 km/h, in a 50 km/h zone, when children are present. In school areas where the speed limit is higher, a 50 km/h reduced speed limit will continue to be in effect when children are present.

For violators, fines are doubled: exceeding the posted limit 1-15 km/h means a $340.21 fine and two penalty points; 16-30 km/h, $455.21 and three points; 31 km/h or more, $685.21 and four points.

While some might think hitting the upper category would be extreme, reconsider: around a school in a town, 61 km/h would do it, and plenty of drivers do achieve that speed in town.

The best thing the transportation department could do is eliminate any need for interpretation. Instead of “when children are present” just say at all times. And drivers might as well stay velocitized to the lower level anyway, since it won’t be long till September rolls around.

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