Speeding in school zones: What does "When children are present" even mean?

 Photo credit: Stock Transportation

Photo credit: Stock Transportation

Reduced Speed Limits

Ever drive by a school zone sign and wonder what counts as ‘When Children Are Present’?  It’s even more important to know now that the speed limit in a school zone changed to only 30 km/hr where the speed limit is normally 50 km/hr.  The definition of ‘When Children Are Present’ hasn’t changed.  The School Area Regulations made under the Motor Vehicle Act states that a child is deemed ‘present’ if the child is ‘on land’ within 30 meters of the center line.  There is no time limit to this definition.  If a child is present, the reduced speed limit is in effect 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  Therefore, if a child is walking along the side of the road in a school zone at 10:00 pm at night in the middle of August, the school zone reduced speed limits still apply.  The logic is, regardless of the time of year, a school is an area where children congregate, whether it’s for academic learning or other pursuits that make use of the school facilities (summer sports leagues, drama camps etc.).

If you are caught driving above the posted speed limit in school zones, the typical speeding fine is automatically doubled.  You also lose your license for seven days.  If you are going 1-15 km/hr over the limit, your ticket will be at least $340.21 and you will accumulate 2 points.  If you are going 16-30 km/hr over, your ticket will be at least $455.21 and 3 points and if you are going more than 30 km/hr over the limit you will receive a minimum ticket of $685.21 and 4 points.  Keep in mind, if you are going 61km/hr in a 50km/hr zone and the reduced school speed is in effect, you are now going 31km/hr over the limit.  Additionally, depending on how many children are present and other relevant factors you may also be facing much more serious dangerous driving charges.

Passing School Buses

A related law deals with school buses.  When a school bus ‘exhibits flashing red lights’ all drivers must stop and remain stopped until the bus proceeds.  If the bus has flashing yellow lights, drivers may pass with caution.  Quite obviously, in a situation like this, should a driver choose to pass a bus with flashing yellow lights, the onus is going to be on the driver to prove that it was safe to proceed.

If you are caught passing a bus with red lights, you lose your license for seven days.  Your ticket will be a minimum of $342.60 and you will get 6 demerit points (which is the minimum number of points to be called in for an ‘interview’ by the Registry of Motor Vehicles).  If you are found to have incorrectly passed a bus flashing yellow lights you also lose your license for seven days, get a minimum ticket of $227.61 and 3 points.  And again depending on the circumstances you may also find yourself dealing with dangerous driving charges.

Crossing Guards

There are also rules governing drivers approaching Crossing Guards on duty.  When a Crossing Guard displays the ‘Stop’ sign in a marked cross walk, drivers must stop their vehicles no closer than five meters from the crosswalk.  Failure to do so will result in your license being suspended immediately for seven days in addition the other penalties which include a fine of not less than $500, 6 points and another seven-day suspension.

 Despite the technicalities of these rules – the best bet when in a school zone, and children are around, is to slow down and drive with extra care.

If you have questions regarding fines, you can contact us.  We offer a no commitment Issue Review Consult for $100+HST where you have the opportunity to explain your situation to a lawyer and get basic advice before deciding whether or not you'd like to retain u.

By: Dianna M. Rievaj, MBA, LLB - Managing Lawyer

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