With more students walking and cycling because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Toronto Police Service is taking steps to ensure they commute safely to and from school.
While the return to school is usually the focus for traffic safety in September, the Service is also promoting cycling safety.
On September 8, the Back to School and Bicycle Safety campaigns were launched outside Keelesdale Junior Public School.
“By launching these initiatives together, the Service can focus on traffic enforcement efforts and increase public awareness to improve the safety of school children, cyclists and all other road users,” said Supt. Scott Baptist.
The Traffic Services Unit Commander said the campaign that runs until September 30 will focus on enforcement, education and community engagement.
“Officers will be looking out for drivers who speed, drive aggressively, distracted or impaired,” said Baptist. “These are driving behaviours that contribute the most to our serious collisions.”
He said the campaign is aligned with Toronto’s Vision Zero Road Safety Plan with an aim to protect the most vulnerable road users, including pedestrians and cyclists.
“Zero injuries and deaths on our roads is the focus that we should all be working towards,” said Baptist.
The City’s Automated Speed Enforcement cameras placed in Community Safety Zones will work in tandem with other methods and strategies, including officers specifically deployed to conduct traffic enforcement activities in locations identified as high risk for serious collisions.
“The Toronto Police Service is dedicated to making our roads safer,” added Baptist. “Front line officers from all areas of the city conduct traffic enforcement every day. Traffic Services will have a dedicated Vision Zero Enforcement Team focused on changing driver behavior through enforcement.”
The team that will hit the road in the next few weeks, he pointed out, will be highly visible and strategically deployed throughout the city.
“The officers will conduct enforcement activities in locations determined by data,” Baptist said. “Our Parking Enforcement officers will be in school zones targeting those who are parked illegally or vehicles potentially putting others at risk. Parking awareness, education and enforcement will take place.”
Baptist also provided some basic pedestrian tips for parents, caregivers and educators to pass on to children.
“If possible, walk or cycle, while maintaining social distancing, with children the first few days, walk and cycle in single file as much as possible, use sidewalks where possible, cross streets at the corners or designated crossings and be aware of your surroundings,” he said.
As for motorists, he asked that they give themselves extra time and expect the unexpected, think about parking a block or two away from the school their children are attending and obey schools’ designated rules when it comes to dropping off or picking up children.
Councillors Frances Nunziata and James Pasternak along with Mayor John Tory also attended the news conference.
“Speeding remains a major challenge to traffic safety in Toronto,” said Mayor Tory, who sits on the Toronto Police Services Board. “Time and again, it has been proven that speeding is a factor in deadly collisions on our roads. This must stop. It is taking a team effort and that’s why we are here today with Transportation Services and Toronto Police.”
He said the City continues to invest in numerous solutions that advance its Vision Zero agenda and protect the most vulnerable road users.
Earlier this year, the City installed 50 speed cameras in Community Safety Zones near schools to protect children as they travel to and from schools.
Between July 6 and August 5, the city’s speed cameras issued a total of 22,301 tickets.
“This means that on average, there were more than 700 speeding incidents each day for the past 31 days despite having fewer vehicles on the road due to the pandemic and reduced summer traffic patterns” said Tory. “In fact, the speed camera behind me which is right outside the school, issued the second highest number of tickets at 1,800.”
He said the highest speed the cameras detected was in Etobicoke near Hollycrest Middle School and Michael Power-St. Joseph Catholic High School.
The speed camera there on Renforth Dr. caught someone driving 89 km/h, which is close to 50 km/h over the posted speed limit. That speed camera also issued the highest number of tickets – more than 2,700 – counting for almost 13 per cent of all tickets issued so far.
The data also revealed there were 2,240 people who were caught speeding more than once.
The most frequent repeat offender received 12 tickets for speeding near Tom Longboat Junior Public School in Scarborough.
“I hope 12 tickets came in the mail and whoever was driving that speeding car finally got the message to slow down,” said the Mayor.
Tory said the speed cameras will be moved to 50 new locations in October to address more areas with safety concerns and to encourage a wide-ranging deterrent effect.
“We are doing everything we can as a city government to help support families, schools, school boards and the provincial government with back to school and that includes our road safety efforts,” he said. “Our Toronto Police Service is a true partner and key part of our Vision Zero Road Safety Plan.”