Members from the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Secondary School lined West Saanich Road Thursday as they watched as car after car raced through their community.
The pupils made a point to keep track of the speeding vehicles and counted four going well above the posted 30-kilometre speed limit in the span of just 15 minutes.
“We have flashing signs that say your speed, bright yellow signs that say this is a school zone, so please just obey them,” said STIWET Elliot, a teacher at W̱SÁNEĆ Secondary school
Elliot says it’s been a concern for decades. “Lots of close calls around here. Thank goodness we haven’t had a major incident.”
While the area is marked like a regular school zone, he says the only thing that really matters is whether there’s a police officer there to enforce the rules.
“It’s not the school zone that slows them down, it’s that they might get caught,” Elliot said. “So it seems they go right back to their routine when the speed traps are not there.”
The stretch of road outside the school serves more than just the students. Without a sidewalk, the already busy stretch of what was once considered a highway leaves staff from the school worried for the community’s safety.
“A lot of community members are physically challenged,” says Gus Underwood, the school’s health and safety facilitator. “They have motorized scooters that utilize this road here as well, and with the lack of space for them, it’s not safe for them either.”
The facility hosts more than just a high school. There’s an elementary school, an adult education centre and daycare programs just to name a few, and Underwood says all of that makes the area very busy. He adds that for those coming and going, it can be a challenge to pull out of the facility and onto the road.
“It’s kind of scary pulling out of here, as you’re pulling out of the driveway you have a car whipping up behind you and they’re slamming on their brakes, but you’re just trying to do your 30,” he says.
Underwood points out that the land belongs to the federal government, and any improvements in traffic easement would have to come from them. With just a single crosswalk and no sidewalk, he hopes his contacts at the municipal level can help get the ball rolling on some much needed improvements.
When asked about its plans to curtail speeding in the area, the Ministry of Transportation suggested incorporating its “Speed Watch” program, which trains individuals in partnership between ICBC and the RCMP to use a speed-radar and provide data-sets to police patrols to better allocate their resources in certain locations.
In a written statement, the MoT said that they’re committed to working with communities and local governments to improve safety for all British Columbians.