Speed Limit in School Zones during the COVID-19 Pandemic
As schools will continue to be closed for the foreseeable future, it is interesting to look at how that affects speed limits in school zones as well as playgrounds. Under Section 147(1) of the Motor Vehicle Act, the speeding provision concerning school zones are only valid on a regular school day and where signs are displayed stating a speed limit of 30 km/h.
What is the speed limit in school zones?
The enforcement of this section as it pertains to a “regular school day” is meant to relate to weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (although those times can be extended if specified on the posted signs). At all other times the speed limit, unless specified, will default to the standard speed limit in a municipality of 50 km/h.
Due to COVID-19, all schools are currently closed, so if a driver were to receive a ticket in a school zone, he or she could forward the argument that it was not a “regular school day” and they were therefore not subject to the 30 km/h speed limit. It would be a very strong argument, but ultimately the decision would be up to the sitting Judicial Justice of the Peace to determine whether it would succeed.
In the case of R v. Ashir 2010 BCPC 0056, Mr. Ashir argued that the officer never established that the day in question (June 11, 2009) was a regular school day. In his decision Judicial Justice Gordon determined as follows:
a regular school day within the meaning of the Motor Vehicle Act in the 2008 / 2009 school year is any weekday between September 2, 2008 and June 26, 2009 other than the periods listed as Winter Vacation and Spring Vacation or the 5 listed statutory holidays. I therefore conclude that Thursday, June 11, 2009 was a regular school day.
If this definition were to hold, then the school shutdown as a result of COVID-19 would not qualify as a valid defence. Obviously, it would be unfair for us to fault Judicial Justice Gordon for not contemplating something so unprecedented, but school shutdowns such as from snow days or teacher strikes are much more common and were not contemplated in this decision either.
In the end, it would be a worthwhile argument to forward, but a Judicial Justice may determine that despite the pandemic, a weekday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. still remains a regular school day.
What about Playground Zones
The legislation concerning playground zone speeds under section 147(2) has a similar wrinkle in its wording. It also outlines a speed of 30 km/h, but when approaching or passing, between dawn and dusk, a public playground for children.
The mention of a “public playground for children” presents some similar questions. Many playgrounds have been closed by municipalities in order to promote social distancing and keep children and their families safe. If a playground has a sign stating it is closed, does this nullify the section in the same way the “regular school day” provision might? It is again difficult to say and would be left to the sitting Judicial Justice. However, it is a valid argument to forward and it is a good idea to contact a lawyer if you are interested in disputing any tickets of this nature.