Evaluation of Vision Zero School Safety Zone Built Environment Interventions in Toronto, Canada: A Pilot Study

Author(s): Rothman, Ling, Hagel, Fuselli, Macpherson, Macarthur, Buliung, Howard

Slidedeck Presentation:

1A Rothman VZ



The City of Toronto adopted a Vision Zero Road Safety Plan in 2016 to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries. As part of this plan, ‘school safety zones’ were created, which involved built environment modifications surrounding schools. This pilot study represents a multidisciplinary collaboration to study the effects of these Vision Zero interventions.


To examine the effect of school safety zone interventions on vehicle speeds (primary outcome), active school transportation (AST) and risky driving behaviours.


Thirty-four schools were identified and interventions were implemented in 2017-2018 ((n=13) and in 2018-2019 (n=21). Interventions were determined by school need; those most frequently installed were flashing beacons, pavement markings, and “Watch Your Speed Boards”. Forty-five control schools were matched by socioeconomic status and grade.
Traffic speeds were measured between 7am and 6 pm at school frontages using pneumatic speed tubes. The proportion of vehicles driving >30 km/hr, the proportion over the speed limit, and the mean 85th percentile speed were measured. Observers determined AST and 9 risky driving behaviours during morning drop off times. Pre and post intervention vehicle speeds were measured in all schools, with secondary outcomes only measured in the 2018-2019 intervention schools and the control schools. Pre-post intervention repeated-measures beta regression modelled the proportional speed and AST outcomes, multivariable linear regression was used for the mean 85th percentile outcome and chi-square analysis for the driver behaviours.


Prior to interventions, an average of 71% of vehicles (intervention schools) and 79% (controls) exceeded 30 km/hr and 44% and 48%, respectively exceeded speed limits. The average 85th percentile speeds were similar in intervention (47 km/hr) and control schools (49 km/hr ). Following the interventions there was a 4% reduction in the proportion driving over the speed limit, representing a 21% decrease in the odds of speeding (OR 0.79, 95% CI: 0.66, 0.96), controlling for traffic calming and posted speed limit. There was only a 1% reduction in controls. There was a 4% increase in AST, around intervention schools representing a non- significant 24% increase in the odds of AST (OR 1.24, 95% CI: 0.98, 1.57), with no change in controls. There were reductions in 6/9 risky driving behaviours, with significant reductions in drivers backing up dangerously (from 90% to 62%) at intervention schools with smaller reductions at controls.


A high proportion of vehicles were found to be speeding in front of schools. Following interventions, there was a modest reduction in vehicles speeding over the speed limit, in dangerous backing up and some increased AST. Statistical power was likely compromised by the small sample size. These initial interventions were limited given that they did not physically slow traffic down, but were restricted to school zone and speed indicators (e.g. lines and signs) with no additional enforcement.


This pilot study showed modest, but promising results related to Vision Zero school safety zone interventions. Bolder interventions are now being implemented, such as lower speed limits and automated speed enforcement which require further evaluation. Reducing vehicle speeds around schools translates to safer environments for children to walk to school.