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06 Feb, Monday
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Montreal Families

Braking for the back-to-school season

During the day, I live with my family on a quiet residential street. But come 4:30 p.m., drivers tear down our streets, apparently oblivious to the posted speed limit, in an effort to avoid a red light at a nearby intersection.

My neighbours and I have tried various methods to slow everyone down. We called the city but they were dealing with streets having even heavier traffic than ours. We shouted at drivers. We installed plastic orange cones at the top of the street when the kids were out playing (the best trick so far).

Our concerns about safety are hardly misplaced. According to a new study of child pedestrians by the non-profit organization Safe Kids Canada, more children are injured on residential streets than anywhere else. Child pedestrian incidents are a leading cause of injury-related death for Canadian children under the age of 14, with more than 2,400 children seriously injured each year and approximately 30 killed.

In fact, the profile of a child killed in such an accident is a boy between the ages of 10 and 14, crossing the street at an intersection within five kilometres of his home. Most incidents occur between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., when kids are coming home from school and adults are returning from work.

At the heart of the problem is speed. A child hit by a car travelling at 50 kilometres an hour has an 80 per cent chance of being killed. That drops to just five per cent if the car is going 30 kilometres an hour.

“Child pedestrian injuries are preventable,” says Pamela Fuselli, executive director of Safe Kids Canada. “We’re encouraging all drivers to be aware of their speed and drive the posted speed limit. It could mean the difference between life and death to a child.”

While many residential speed limits are posted at 50 kilometres an hour, a Safe Kids Canada Harris/Decima survey reported that 74 per cent of drivers would support a law making 30 kilometres an hour the speed limit in residential areas.

As Safe Kids Canada points out, the onus is on adults to drive safely. A child’s physical and mental capacity is still developing well into the teen years, so kids may not always be able to make safe judgments about pedestrian safety.

In Quebec, where drivers are notorious for surging through red lights and taking a casual approach to posted speed limits, the campaign could provide a welcome reminder that pedestrians — especially kids — benefit when cars slow down. And maybe we’ll finally be able to relax on our street when the kids go out to play.

Keeping kids safe

This fall, Safe Kids Canada is spearheading a campaign to get drivers to slow down. On the website www.whatstherush.ca , adults can learn more about how speed kills. They can take a safe driving test and sign up to receive a decal that declares they will obey the speed limit.

Safe Kids Canada and Johnson & Johnson are offering a free “Safe Roads, Safe Kids” educational brochure for parents and caregivers. Log onto www.safekidscanada.ca to download your copy.

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