City, police launch traffic safety program reminding drivers to slow down

Speed signs and raised crosswalks partly funded through provincial Traffic Safety Fund

Police Chief Jon Bergen speaks at a news conference at École St. Anne school on Sept. 16, 2020 about a new traffic safety program. (Jayda Taylor/Daily Herald)

With students returned to the classroom, staying safe in school zones is as important as ever. That’s partly why the city and police are implementing a new program called “Slow Down Prince Albert.”

Twenty-four signs and 20 raised crosswalks have popped up across the city; 16 of those signs and 19 of those crosswalks are located in school zones.

Eight signs are placed in other targeted locations, one in each ward. They will be rotated throughout the year.

The solar-powered signs display your speed, tell you to slow down if you’re over the speed limit and collect data for the city. That data, such as what times of the day speeding is most common, will allow police to issue tickets or warnings as necessary.

This map shows the current locations of new solar-powered speed signs across Prince Albert. (City of Prince Albert/Website)

“Ultimately, our goal is not to create revenue. Our goal is to make the community safer, make our highways safer and to prevent accidents and initiatives like this achieve that,” said police Chief Jon Bergen at a Wednesday news conference.

“Having these devices placed in these strategic locations are definitely going to aid us in our initiative to keep the community safe, and especially our children.”

Bergen said police have issued about 500 tickets for speeding so far this year. For the same time period last year, that number was sitting at about 600, although he noted that the police service has shifted how it responds to different enforcement during the pandemic.

Cst. Rob Lindsay is part of Prince Albert’s Combined Traffic Services of Saskatchewan (CTSS) unit. With the signs reading “slow down” in bold red when you’re well over the speed limit, Lindsay hopes they’ll serve as a warning when police officers can’t be there to catch you.

Even when they are, Lindsay said sometimes people still don’t press the brakes.

“I’m sitting there in a marked police unit and people will drive right past me and they are 10, 15 km/hr over the speed limit in a school zone,” he said.

“We can’t be in every school zone and every part of the city every day, but these signs with the bright flashing lights and the reminder to please slow down, they’ll be there.”

Lindsay said it’s more common to find people speeding at peak times of the day such as before work, at lunch or after school.

The signs and raised crosswalks cost $138,183, $98,183 of that coming from the provincial Traffic Safety Fund.

The money is accumulated through photo speed enforcement, something Mayor Greg Dionne called “voluntary tax payments.”

“I live on a curve and we have lots of accidents on that curve, but now, because there’s a raised crosswalk right at the school, people are slowing down,” said Dionne, who lives near École Vickers.

“I think it’s a reasonable request, to slow down and be respectful for the kids.”

The city plans to implement these signs and crosswalks in every school zone in Prince Albert. He said the city will also fund them near playgrounds not attached to schools, like the one on Muzzy Drive.

Prince Albert Carlton MLA and Minister Responsible for SGI, Joe Hargrave, said the Traffic Safety Fund ensures small Saskatchewan communities can implement these safety measures.

He gave the example of Thode, a town near Blackstrap Lake.

Joe Hargrave, Prince Albert Carlton MLA and Minister Responsible for SGI, speaks at a news conference at École St. Anne school on Sept. 16, 2020. The province helped fund new signs and raised crosswalks in the city through the Traffic Safety Fund. (Jayda Taylor/Daily Herald)

“There’s lots of those communities that were just neglected before, so they never got things like these signs,” said Hargrave, who also urged drivers to slow down for the community’s safety.

“Take the 30 seconds, take the extra 10 seconds because, really, that’s all it is when you’re driving through a school zone,” he added.

“Everybody’s got that kind of time.”

Municipalities can apply for Traffic Safety Fund grants twice a year.

Speed limits in Prince Albert are 40 km/hr in residential areas, 50 km/hr on arterial and collector streets and 30 km/hr in school zones from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday, between September and June.