With the new school year, the latest sneakers, and summer stories, thousands of kids return to the school across the Central Okanagan on Tuesday.
And with that, school zones and their speed limits of 30 km/h are back in effect, something drivers are going to have to get used to again.
“People are just driving their regular day so they’re not quite ready for school yet we’re out there educating them,” said Kelowna RCMP media relations officer Mike Della-Paolera, who noted the average speed outside Raymer Elementary School on Tuesday morning was 50 km/h, well over the school zone limit.
The last few weeks are the time when parents, children, and the public start preparing for the start of the school year but this year has been a little different because of the Grouse Complex of wildfires.
“People are distracted all summer long, they’re used to driving 50 km/h in our streets but obviously the last three weeks, people in the Central Okanagan have had their minds on other things and this is probably the first normal thing a family’s had to do in the last couple weeks but they need a little reminder school zones are in effect at 7:30 in the morning,” continued Della-Paolera.
For the next two weeks, the Kelowna RCMP, BC Highway Patrol, and Kelowna Municipal Traffic Services will be patrolling school zones to help enforce the speed limit, which is in place from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on school days.
“We do not want to write tickets but will be writing warning tickets,” said Della-Paolera. “It’s parents that are late for school because they haven’t got their timing down yet. It’s people that are not parents that are just unaware it’s a school day and they’re on their regular business.”
In front of Raymer Elementary on Tuesday morning, three people were given warning tickets for speeding. People who get caught speeding in a school zone can be issued a $198 ticket and lose three points on their license. Failing to stop for a school bus signal can also result in a $368 fine.
“It’s a fairly expensive ticket to get,” said Della-Paolera.
On top of speeding in school zones, the RCMP is looking for distracted drivers, people who attempt to make u-turns in a school zone and jay-walking. Additionally, one of the most important issues that drivers don’t realize is that parking across the street from the school isn’t allowed to keep children safe.
“One of our biggest concerns is children darting across the street because they see their parents,” said Della-Paolera. “In most school zones, the area across the street from the school is a no-parking zone for that reason alone. Children are ‘eyes on the prize’, there’s mom and dad waiting in the car, they’re going to dart across the street and nothing good can come of that.”
School zone speeds are also implied in playground zones from dawn until dusk every day. Electronic bikes are also under the motor vehicle act, meaning riders can also receive tickets for going more than 30 km/h in school zones.
“The safety of our children is the absolute most important thing,” said Della-Paolera.