09 Nov Local communities among several receiving new Community Safety Zones this fall
Oxford County is introducing 20 new Community Safety Zones this fall, four of which will be in East Zorra-Tavistock. A release from the county said the zones are one of several speed management and traffic calming measures they are undertaking to improve traffic safety in growing communities.
Frank Gross is the county’s manager of transportation and said they are only implemented in unique situations. “It is a segment of the road where special safety concerns have been identified, such as near schools, community centres, recreation areas, playgrounds, hospitals, or seniors’ centres or residences.” He added it gives police the authority to increase speeding fines through those areas.
Under the Highway Traffic Act, municipalities do have the option to designate areas as Community Safety Zones, something the county feels is a necessary step. “To support council’s decision, we developed criteria, and we used samples that other municipalities had developed. The process, which was approved by county council, is a two-stage process to look closely at areas of special consideration. They are further analyzed using a scoring matrix we developed based on road risk factors.” Gross added if an area exceeds a certain score, it is eligible for a zone designation.
In Tavistock, there are two zones being implemented this month, one on 59 that begins at the town limits, coming from Hickson and going to Wilton Street. The second begins at 59 at the five-corner, running to Dietrich Road. In Hickson, it starts at County Road 8 from 59 to the 13th Line. In Innerkip, the zone goes from County Road 4 at George Street, then turns left onto County Road 33. New signage is scheduled to be up within the next two weeks.
Marked by road signage, Community Safety Zones also allow for the use of automated speed enforcement, or photo radar, something the county is looking to implement in the future. “For Oxford, we are going to investigate the potential of a speed enforcement program in 2024. We are going to look at what that might look like and bring it to county council for consideration. It would be a budget item for 2025.”
The county does have a plan to keep tabs on speed management and traffic calming on an ongoing basis, including Community Safety Zones. “It’s meant to be a deterrent for drivers knowing they could get increased speeding fines through those areas,” said Gross, who added speed is becoming more of an issue recently. “Speeding seems to be one of the primary concerns of residents from a road safety perspective. The Oxford County transportation network is mostly rural roads that pass through urban centres. So that really is the challenge, to get traffic used to driving on an 80 km/hour road in an open area, and then they need to slow down as they pass through urban settlements. From the county’s perspective, which is one of the biggest challenges with road safety.”
The county is also considering other safety measures to improve safety, such as more controlled pedestrian crossings and more traffic calming. “We are getting more of an understanding of what works and what doesn’t. We are also looking at more physical features that change the driving environment that forces vehicles to slow down,” added Gross.
Other Community Safety Zones are being implemented in Beachville, Bright, Drumbo, Harrington, Ingersoll, Kintore, Norwich, Otterville, Thamesford, and Woodstock. For more information and to see the specific areas affected visit https://www.oxfordcounty.ca/en/Public-Notice/2023/Maps/CSZ-Maps—All-Areas.pdf.