On Tuesday, September 8, 2020, the Niagara Regional Police Service conducted its 20th annual back to school traffic safety and awareness day. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, this back to school day was been like no other. This year the Niagara School Boards elected to stagger the start date and times during the first week. Even though not all students were returning today, the Niagara Regional Police wanted to continue with this worthwhile initiative to remind drivers about safe driving habits that can help to protect the lives of our citizens in Niagara.
Each year, senior officers and those who work in specialty units who are not regularly assigned to uniform patrol duties, put on their uniforms and head out to the local schools zones to take part in this traffic safety and awareness day. In addition to the general uniform patrol, another 41 officers took part in the initiative.
This year the focus was on our 10 new Community Safety Zones that joined the two from last year. The purpose of a Community Safety Zone is to modify driver behaviour and improve safety on certain sections of road, where public safety is of special concern. The fines for offences committed in Community Safety Zones are increased and speeding fines are doubled. None of the rules of the road change within the zone, only the penalties. The following 12 locations have been designated as a Community Safety Zones:
- Alexander Kuska KSG Catholic Elementary School
- Blessed Trinity Catholic Secondary School
- Crossroads Public Elementary School
- DSBN Academy
- Greendale Elementary School
- John Calvin School
- Our Lady of Victory Catholic Elementary School
- Park Elementary School
- Smithville District Christian High School
- St. Ann Catholic Elementary School
- St. David’s Public School
- Twenty Valley Public School
Officers attended each of the 12 Community Safety Zones and informed drivers about the increased fines. Warnings will continue for the following two weeks and officers will begin laying charges on September 21.
With the return of back to school, the student buses have also resumed service. At the beginning of this school year, the Niagara Student Transportation Services (NSTS) now have over 100 school buses that are equipped with video cameras for both the District School Board of Niagara and the Niagara Catholic District School Board. Video evidence will be sent to the Niagara Regional Police and if there are grounds to support a charge, then the offence notice will be mailed to the last known address of the vehicle's owner.
The officers that participated in the initiative this year, advised that the majority of the drivers were driving cautiously around the school zones. This year a total 144 tickets and warnings were issued. There were 112 warnings, 22 tickets issued for speeding, 10 other various traffic offences and one driver was charged with driving while under suspension. Elsewhere in the Region, two drivers were arrested during the day and charged for impaired driving.
Members of the Niagara Regional Police Service will continue to conduct traffic safety programs in school zones throughout the entire school year, by targeting aggressive and distracted drivers. The Niagara Regional Police Service wish to remind all drivers to be alert, drive with caution and be aware of their surroundings, especially in the area of schools and other educational facilities.