Steve Wallace: Back to school in the time of COVID-19

It is that time of year again, back to school, and everything seems to have changed on the health front. But nothing has changed in the traditional traffic-safety front.

Students will be instructed in not only the traditional education disciplines, but also the social-distancing dimensions. It will be stressful for all concerned, especially teachers, who will be entrusted with new safety protocols established by both school boards and administration.

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What percentage of students will return is anyone’s guess, but no one is denying the new reality. Change is a given!

Here is what has not changed one bit.

Students will only be protected between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on school days, when school-zone signs are present. These times are posted on some school-zone signs, but the vast majority have no posted times. Drivers new to Backward Columbia are often in the dark when it comes to the exact protected time periods. It gets worse!

The speed tab must be attached to the school-zone sign for there to be a 30 km/h designation and resulting enforcement. No speed posted tab means the zone reverts to 50 km/h or any other posted speed limits on the roads adjacent to the school property.

Where does the school zone end? Only in Backward Columbia does the school-zone speed limit end when a driver sees the corresponding school-zone sign on the opposite side of the road facing away from a driver leaving the school zone.

Drivers must adhere to this non-descript, grey-backed, inconspicuous and blank message, indicating the seemingly protective school zone is now at an end. How ridiculous!

If this is how our municipal and provincial governments think they will protect our student population, they need their collective heads examined.

There are places such as Nan aimo, where school-zone end signs are plainly visible to drivers as they leave the protected-speed area.

Highlands in the Greater Victoria area is another good example of this policy being employed.

School zones are enforced on days only. These days include when teachers are working but no students attend.

Private schools remain legally unprotected when their spring break or other in-session days do not align with the public-school calendar.

Playground-zone speed enforcement is much easier to explain and understand. There is no guessing about the days of enforcement.

Every day is playground-enforcement day, from a half hour before sunrise to a half hour after sunset, (although for court purposes many police departments use the sun-up to sundown time period). There still must be a tab with a 30 km/h speed designation attached for this posted speed to be enforced. No tab, as with school zones, no lower speed designation. Again, voodoo vision must be employed to see the grey backing of the playground sign on the other side of the road, designating the end of the zone.

Of course, this is difficult enough to recognize, when many municipalities plant trees and put other obstructions in the way, which makes these important signs barely visible.

One municipality, which shall remain nameless, thinks it is cool to have the 30 km/h playground-speed sign painted yellow to match the diamond sign showing a kid chasing a ball. This renders the speed unenforceable.

The speed-zone sign must be white for it to be included in the regulatory category. Yellow speed-zone signs are advisory! (Please have them changed asap. You know who you are.

Let us all be more cautious while driving in the vicinity of schools, regardless of speed-zone oddities, at this stressful time.

steve.d.wallace@outlook.com

Steve Wallace is the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island. He is a former vice-president of the Driving School Association of the Americas, a registered B.C. teacher and a University of Manitoba graduate.

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