Slow Your Roll

Written by Alejandro Neufeld

Everyone hates to get caught speeding by a photo radar officer, me especially. It feels almost unfair—they set up a camera, then hide as inconspicuously as possible in an unassuming vehicle a few meters behind. It makes one’s blood boil, but those officers are doing a job, and starting this month, they will be out and about more frequently than we are used to. The reason for this is related to a new city by-law concerning playground zone speed limits. As of September 5th of this year, all playground zones in Lethbridge will have a new, year-round speed limit of 30 km/h from the hours of 7 AM to 9:30 PM. In his article for Lethbridge News Now, Christian Oldale explains that these new speed limits are part of the 2021 Transportation Safety Plan implemented by City officials to increase children’s safety before and after school.

Oldale cites studies done by the Lethbridge Police Service that indicate that these speed limits in playground zones reduce collisions by 33 percent overall and 70 percent between the hours of 5:30 PM and 9:00 PM.

These stats sound great, but they become an afterthought when you run 15 minutes late to your early morning lecture or your closing shift at work. Most of the time, these speed limits are annoying and irritating. Many of us, myself included, will often check and see if any police are in the area. If there are none, we will sneakily increase the speed of our vehicles to 50 or even 70 km/h just to make sure we are not late. This is harmless, we tell ourselves. Even if there is a kid crossing the street, our reaction times are quick enough to slow down for them, which is what we reiterate to ourselves and others. But what if we are wrong? What if we are not fast enough?

If you consult the Government of Canada’s Canadian Motor Vehicle Traffic Collision Statistics webpage, some of those stats will shock you. According to them, in 2021, 57 kids between the ages of 0-14 died in vehicle-related deaths, and 5,303 injuries were reported among the same age group. Now, while not all of these incidents occurred in playground zones, the huge number of injuries alone is appalling. These are just children from the ages of 0-14. If you continue reading through the webpage, the deaths and injuries increase from age group to age group. Maybe we are not as good at driving as we think. Maybe we do get distracted easily on the road. Maybe our reaction times are not superhuman after all.

These numbers are just one reason why Lethbridge has implemented these year-round playground zone speed limits. The local group Get Involved Lethbridge has a multitude of reasons why these speed limits make sense on their website. Below, I have listed some of the major ones:

  • During the school year, it is harder to see small children on the road as the sun sets earlier.
  • A slower speed limit in playground zones reduces the severity of collisions if they do happen.
  • A consistent provincial start and end time for playground zones and school zones makes it easier for motorists to remember to reduce speed and reduces confusion for drivers.
  • Lethbridge School District, Holy Spirit School District, and the Lethbridge Police Service have all given their support to the initiative.

All of these reasons seem logical, but for some, it will still be hard to follow the new speed limits. Whether that is due to bad habits or poor time management, this is why you will notice an increased police presence in playground zones. But even if you do get a speeding ticket or the photo radar officer gets a close-up of your license plate, use it as reinforcement to become a safer driver, not as an excuse to complain about the government. As Canadians, no, as people, we are bound to respect and adhere to the regulations and laws set down by our elected officials. We still retain the right to protest and complain when we are unhappy, but that is not the key issue when it comes to this matter. When it comes to an issue that can lead to the death or mutilation of a kid, then we should put aside our own disagreements and pettiness and think of the bigger picture. Most of all, think of the kids and make sure that they are safe when they leave their homes.

For me, this comes down to a moral issue. I could not live with myself if my gross negligence or arrogance caused the serious injury or death of a kid who was just walking home from school. So please, even if it means you might miss the first 10 minutes of a lecture or be 5 minutes late to work, think of the kids, put the cell phone down, and slow your roll when driving through a playground zone.

Works Cited

Goulet, Justin. “Year-Round Playground Zones Take Effect in Lethbridge September 5, 2023.” Lethbridge News Now, lethbridgenewsnow.com/2023/09/01/year-round-playground-zones-take-effect-in-lethbridge-september-5-2023/#:~:text=and%20playground%20zones.-. Accessed 26 Sept. 2023.

Canada, Transport. “Canadian Motor Vehicle Traffic Collision Statistics: 2021.” Transport Canada, 13 Apr. 2023, tc.canada.ca/en/road-transportation/statistics-data/canadian-motor-vehicle-traffic-collision-statistics-2021.

“Playground & School Zone Harmonization | Get Involved Lethbridge.” Getinvolvedlethbridge.ca, getinvolvedlethbridge.ca/harmonizedplaygroundzones#:~:text=The%20City%20of%20Lethbridge%20is. Accessed 26 Sept. 2023.‌

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