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New '24-hour' school speed zone sign creates confusion in B.C. community

"I've never heard of this," wrote one woman.
New sign posted at Dorothy Peacock Elementary on Sept. 6, 2022.

On the very day children head back to school in B.C., one community has confusion around posted school zone signs.

Joanne Allison lives in the Township of Langley and noticed a new sign posted at the intersection of 40th Avenue and 204 Street, beside Belmont Elementary School. It read "New School Zone Hours, 24 Hour School Days."

"I was shocked to see it up," says Allison.

Out of confusion, she shared a photo of the sign on Facebook. The post garnered comments from people who reported seeing a similar sign at other locations.

"In July, the newspaper had a story that the Township was considering it but then to see the signs up shocked me. It is up at other schools, at least in the Township,” says Allison.

Glacier Media reached out to the Township of Langley, Langley RCMP, Langley School District, the Ministry of Education and Child Care and the Ministry of Public Safety to find out about the signs and who posted them.

"The school district cannot provide comment as we don’t have jurisdiction over roads. You will have to reach out to Langley RCMP or Township of Langley, which are the agencies that have jurisdiction over roads and signage," says Joanne Abshire, communication manager at Langley Schools. 

Cpl. Holly Largy with Langley RCMP tells Glacier Media "school speed zones in B.C. are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. when school is in session."

A spokesperson with the Township of Langley confirms the new signs are school speed zones implemented 24 hours per day on school days.

"The speed limit is set for 24 hours per day to be consistent with the design of existing traffic-calming measures on these roads that are intended to slow drivers to 30 km/h 24 hours per day, such as speed humps or raised crosswalks," states a spokesperson. 

In late July, Township of Langley Council adopted bylaw amendments to allow for the implementation and enforcement of 30 km/h speed limits on local and collector roads with existing 30 km/h school zones, to be in effect 24 hours per day on school days.

"The intent being, based on community input, to ensure that drivers proceed slowly and safely during non-school hours also, when the school and its amenities are in use by other user groups for other needs," states the spokesperson. 

The implementation of the new signs is happening at 22 schools for this new school year.

Glacier Media asked the Township who would be enforcing their new signs and if tickets would be given out to those who disobeyed the 24 hour rule. The Township said enforcement would be done by RCMP.

Allison believes the new signs just created confusion. 

"You’d think whoever did the change would notify the police too or consult them. I called the non-emergency RCMP first and they knew nothing about it. I feel like it is loony Langley politics again," she says. 

The same sign was allegedly spotted at 270th Street beside Parkside Centennial Elementary. 

"I feel like they need to do more advertising of this as I've never heard of this," wrote one woman on Facebook. 

Another person wrote: "Thanks for the heads-up, but I feel like more should [be] said about it. It's quite the change." 

During a press conference Tuesday about school speed zones, Glacier Media asked Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside if 24 hour school speed zones have been considered.

“That's a really good question. I'm not aware of that. But I might defer to or ask one of our colleagues… one of my colleagues in the solicitor general's office to get back to you,” says Whiteside. 

In a written statement, the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General says under the Motor Vehicle Act, school zone speed limits are in effect from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on regular school days. 

"Enforcement decisions rest with police agencies and are made independently of government," states the spokesperson. 

The ministry did not comment further on the new signs in the Township of Langley. 

Tickets for not following signs

Const. Tania Visintin says the Vancouver Police Department will be stepping up enforcement around schools. 

"Always yield to pedestrians. It's the law. Put down the phone and don't drive distracted,” she says. 

Drivers who pass a bus with flashing lights could be fined $360. Speeding in school zones between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., meanwhile, could result in fines starting at $196.

“Stay focused on the road and watch for children,” says Visintin. “It's a good idea for parents to just review basic safety tips with their children. It's really important to make eye contact with drivers when they're crossing the road, even when they're at crosswalks. Always remind your children to make that eye contact with the drivers."

Whiteside added more people are also walking, cycling and driving to their destination with the start of school.

“Every B.C. driver has a responsibility to keep our kids, our roads and our communities safe,” she says. "When school doors opened this week, traffic gets a little heavier on our streets. People are back from holiday. School buses and public transit are on regular routes."

Whiteside suggested people give themselves extra time when driving. 

When Glacier Media followed up, the minister did not add any further comments after about the Langley signs.

B.C. drivers get D grade for school zone safety awareness

According to a new BCAA survey, drivers have some "dangerous" knowledge gaps when it comes to driving safely in school zones. 

Seventy-four per cent of drivers surveyed did not know how to tell when a school zone ends and 69 per cent were confused about stopping in school zones. 

BCAA's director of community engagement is worried by the results. 

"Bad driving in school zones, especially during back-to-school time, is both scary and dangerous," he says. "It's often chalked up to rushing at a busy time of year, but the fact that many drivers don't know the driving laws and rules for school zones is putting kids at even greater risk."

Forty-two per cent of people surveyed did not know the speed limit when school is not in session. 

The survey was conducted online and involved 1,001 adult British Columbians, including 123 parents or guardians of elementary or middle school-aged children. 

Most B.C drivers, 81 per cent, did know the speed zone limit is 30 km/h and that stopping for a bus is the law. 

The survey gave them a D grade.

A new sign posted at the intersection of 40th Avenue and 204 Street reads "New School Zone Hours, 24 Hour School Days" on Sept. 6 2022. Joanne Allison