COVID-19-era speeds on streets, playground zones: the safety story

The volume of automobile traffic on Edmonton streets is down as much as 50 per cent, a pandemic-era trend that has set the stage for extreme speeding, too.

“We work for the safety of Edmontonians,” said Jessica Lamarre, who is the City of Edmonton’s Acting Director of Traffic Safety.

“So, we want to share the numbers that tell the story of what is happening right now, what we’re trying to do about it and repeat that we need everyone’s help.”

The numbers show….

For the week of March 16, there was a 30 per cent increase in the numbers of automobiles moving more than 20 km/h over the posted limit, according to the City of Edmonton. For the week of March 23, that number started moving back toward pre-COVID levels.

“While that’s more typical, it doesn’t make it okay,” said Lamarre. “There were still over 800 cases captured in which people were driving at extremely unsafe speeds last week alone.”

The City defines extreme speeding as more than 20 km/over the speed limit, and compiles its data from automated enforcement locations. That means the 800 cases represent only a fraction of the vehicles on the road.

Fewer vehicles on the streets doesn’t mean speeding isn’t dangerous, said Lamarre.

Royal Alexander Hospital
Royal Alexandra Hospital, Edmonton, April 1, 2020

Safe driving helps hospitals, too

Driving at safe speeds does the health care system a solid.

“The last thing we need is a spike in traffic accidents because people are speeding, and, consequently, the drain on our public health care system,” said Mayor Don Iveson.

“Now is the time we need everyone to be very, very careful so they don’t wind up, either themselves, or putting someone else in hospital at a time where our health care workers have enough to deal with.”

Edmonton Photo Radar Vehicle
Drive safe is clear message of mobile photo radar, 132 Avenue at 103 Street, April 1, 2020

What the City does for safety

Lamarre said City experts make sure photo radar vehicles are in the right locations.

“Each day, the Traffic Safety team reviews reports from the previous day’s enforcement, including accounts from the Edmonton Police Service, to make sure we’re in the right places at the right time during this time of change for Edmontonians,” said Lamarre. “We use data to make decisions to support safety.”

“The City is not increasing the amount of photo radar,” Lamarre said. “We are making adjustments about where photo radar is located based on where we’re seeing an increase in speeding.”

Playground zones

Lamarre said a big question her group faces is, why are 30 k/h playground zones still in effect if there is less traffic on the streets and schools and playgrounds are closed?

The first answer is: the playground speed limits are the result of a City Council bylaw. Speed limits are set or re-set according to an established legislative procedure.

The additional answer is: public health officials have said it’s still important to go outside, and to continue to be active, but that physical distancing rules must be respected.

“We can expect that more people are spending more time being active in their neighbourhoods during the day, so it remains the law to follow the posted limits until the happy day that playgrounds and schools are open again,” said Lamarre.

Editor’s note: the pic at the top of the post shows Wayne Gretzky Drive, 4:38 pm, March 31, 2020.