With classes across the province beginning this week, Manitoba Public Insurance is funding enhanced enforcement activities around schools and their designated zones during September.

The annual initiative is in its ninth year, where MPI provides funds to RCMP, as well as Winnipeg and Brandon police services to enhance their patrols around schools in the mornings and afternoons when pedestrian activity and traffic volumes are heaviest.

School zones are set in place to ensure the safety of children crossing the roadway. Unlike other cities such as Brandon and Winnipeg, the school zones in Portage la PrairIe have no restrictions and are active 24 hours a day throughout all seasons.

"It's important that drivers observe the speed limits in these zones and slow down," said Satvir Jatana, Chief Customer Officer, Manitoba Public Insurance. "Reducing a vehicle's speed could save a life. Slowing down allows the driver to react quicker and reduces braking distance."

MPI says patrols near school zones can take place before, during or after classes. Drivers caught speeding in a school zone could face a fine of at least $200 and move down two levels on the Driver Safety Rating scale.

Last year, nearly 700 speeding offence notices were handed out during the yearly program.

More than 5,000 provincial offence notices for various infractions were issued to drivers over the past five years, ranging from speeding to the use of a hand-held electronic while driving, failure to stop at pedestrian crosswalks and other traffic control devices.

Last year, police monitored more than 100 different school locations in both urban and rural communities.