A vehicle zooms by a school, with a pedestrian crossing in the foreground.

A provincial committee is looking into the possibility of allowing municipalities to use photo radar in school zones. IAN MCINROY/BARRIE EXAMINER/POSTMEDIA

Speeders could soon be snapped near Ontario schools.

A special Queen’s Park standing committee is discussing a proposed law called the Safer School Zones Act, or Bill 65, allowing municipalities to use photo radar – which local politicians have said would help keep children safer.

Barrie Mayor Jeff Lehman said he thinks photo radar in school zones is a good idea, although what it would cost or exactly how it would work need answering.

“I think in a city as family oriented as Barrie, and with traffic growing due to growth, it could be a good safety step,” he said. “It would do what our police force does during a safety blitz, such as they do in the first few weeks of September, all year round.

“I think any tool that can help with safety is worth looking at.”

Introduced by Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca, Bill 65 would allow municipalities to use an automated speed enforcement system, including photo radar. This system wouldn’t be mandated by the province, but a choice for local councils in any school zones or designated community safety zones.

It would also allow municipalities to lower speed limits below 50 kilometres an hour in some areas.

School-zone safety has also been in the news because a six-year-old boy died after being struck by a vehicle just across from his Scarborough elementary school last week.

The Liberal government said last November it intended to introduce legislation giving municipalities the power to use photo radar-automated speed enforcement technology – which takes photos of the licence plates of speeding cars, in school zones and community safety zones. Tickets are mailed to vehicle owners.

Photo radar captures a photograph of a speeding vehicle; as it enters the radar beam it’s detected and the speed is calculated.

Revenue from the fines issued to speeding drivers would stay with the municipalities, the province said at the time.

But Lehman said he’s still looking for answers to questions.

“When we looked at red light cameras, one of the issues in other cities is that it does put a higher burden on the courts,” he said. “So it can actually end up costing more than the additional funds it might bring in from fines.”

Barrie’s mayor said the education boards should be involved as well.

“A broader partnership with the school boards on safety around schools would also be a welcome step,” he said. “There is already lots of discussions on this at the staff level and through initiatives such as the active transportation working group, that we could build on.

“From my point of view, the goal must be to increase safety, so we would need to look at whether it works well elsewhere.”

Barrie police have said they support any legislation outlined by the province that encourages safety on city roads. As the legislation is set, city police would assess the at-risk zones and work with the city to implement what is necessary to proceed with a program such as photo radar. Police would support an initiative that promotes and enhances safety within Barrie.

Toronto Mayor John Tory supports photo radar in school zones, as it would require fewer police officers for speed patrols and could help trim the Toronto $1-billion police budget.

Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives have called Bill 65 a cash grab, and have expressed concerns local governments could also decide some highways are community safety zones.

Bill 65 has passed two of the three required readings it needs to become law.

Source: The Barrie Examiner