Almost one-third of speeders pulled over Nov. 1 in a school-driven speeding initiative on Valley View Road were ticketed for going at least 30 kilometres over the posted speed limit in a school zone.
That's excessive, said Greater Sudbury Police Service Const. Bert Lapalme, and “it should not happen in a school zone.”
He said Valley View Road makes for a prime area for those with a need for speed to travel well above the posted speed limit.
It's a long, flat stretch of road and on clear days, drivers can see for several kilometres ahead of them. But the fact it's a school zone, with a posted speed limit of 40 kilometres an hour, means speeding drivers are putting hundreds of children in danger.
That was the message police and students from l’École secondaire catholique tried to drive home Nov. 1, and it was one that proved difficult for any driver on Valley View Road to forget. Police officers equipped with hand-held radar guns stood outside of the school looking for anyone daring enough to drive more than 10 kilometres over the speed limit.
Officers were there, and so were a number of l'Horizon students as part of a speeding initiative to encourage drivers to slow down. It was the second time in the past three years the students tackled the initiative with help from police.
Anyone caught travelling more than 10 kilometres an hour above the speed limit was pulled over by police. They were then given two options: receive a speeding ticket, or receive a talking to from the students, who also provided information on the effects of speeding.
But, anyone driving more than 30 kilometres an hour over the speed limit was guaranteed a ticket, said Greater Sudbury Police Service Const. Bert Lapalme.
“The option of getting a talking to by the students is off the table at that point, because it's pretty difficult to justify driving 30 kilometres an hour over the speed limit in a school zone,” Lapalme said. “We are here to share the message about the consequences of speeding. This is to remind drivers that things can escalate quickly, and driving over the speed limit takes away one's ability to react in a timely fashion.”
Carole Diotte-O'Bonsawin, a teacher at l’Horizon and leader to the Empowered Student Partnership, said students put a lot of time and effort into preparing for the initiative. They conducted research on speeding in order to produce pamphlets — complete with statistics — to hand out to drivers pulled over by police.
“We also want to show the community these students are involved, that they care and that they'd like drivers to slow down,” Diotte-O'Bonsawin said. “People are speeding all the time. It's a busy area, with lots of buses and parents dropping off and picking up their children, and speeding is a major concern.”
L'Horizon has about 350 students, and although Diotte-O'Bonsawin said she isn't sure of the number of students at the elementary school down the road, it was irrelevant, because they are at risk all the time due to the constant threat from speeders.
After about an hour and a half, police had already handed out several speeding tickets, Lapalme said. In the same short time frame, dozens of drivers received a sound warning from both officers and students who don't want to see any of their friends injured or killed by a speeding driver.
“Our friends mean the world to us, and we don't want anything bad to happen to them,” said Roxanne Bélanger-Pitre, one of a number of students talking to drivers outside of her school.
While it would be nice to have a police presence on Valley View Road at all times of the day, it just isn't feasible, Lapalme said. Greater Sudbury Police Service doesn't have the manpower for it. As for the partnership with the school, it is up to staff and students should they want to continue the initiative year after year. Greater Sudbury Police Service is more than willing to help out, if requested, he said.
Diotte-O'Bonsawin said another benefit to the initiative is teaching her students that speeding isn't an option. Children learn by example, she said, and watching people speed down Valley View Road could influence their driving behaviours.
“Even our students who are able to drive already have come to realize they might have been speeding, because they forgot this is a school zone with a speed limit of 40,” she said.