The big rush of Back to School might be over, but that doesn’t mean that there are any fewer students making their way to and from school each morning and afternoon. School zones are in effect from Monday to Friday, usually from about 8am to 5pm, and are designed to make sure that drivers slow down and are extra vigilant as they drive near or through school zones. School zone safety is important for everyone.
There is a lot to consider in a school zone from school busses picking up and dropping students off, to kids walking and on bikes, and other cars waiting their turn to unload kids. To help drivers ensure that they are doing their part to keep students safe near roads, we’ve put together a few tips for you.
Pay Attention to Your Driving
While it’s important to be vigilant in school zones, and keep an eye on all the activity going on, here are a few general driving tips to consider:
- Go slowly – posted signs are in the general area of a school zone for a reason, so it’s important to stick to them. They ensure that you are moving at a speed that allows you to stop in a hurry if you must and help you be aware of everything going on around you.
Stop for school busses – this rule applies inside and outside of school zones, and should always be followed. Any time you see a school bus flashing red lights with their stop sign displayed you should stop – this goes for traffic going in either direction to allow for any passengers who might cross the road or step out from behind the bus.
- Don’t drive distracted – it’s important to pay attention while in a school zone, mostly because kids can be unpredictable. Stay alert, stay off the phone (and definitely don’t drive while using it!), and try to minimize backseat distractions from kids or pets that are traveling with you.
- Don’t overtake other cars – with so much going on in a school zone, it’s important not to overtake other vehicles at any time. There are so many different types of vehicles stopping intermittently, which makes visibility limited, so waiting your turn can help you avoid any accidents if someone darts out from behind a vehicle, or crosses unexpectedly in front of you.
For some additional information, here are 12 Tips for Drivers from the Canada Safety Council.
School Zone Tips
Once you’re in or near the school zone, here are a few things to consider as you’re making your drop off or pick ups:
- Obey the crossing guard – these are volunteers who are legally allowed to stop traffic to help children cross the road. It’s not optional to obey their request for you to stop – you must come to a complete stop for them and remain stopped until students and the crossing guard are safely on the other side of the road.
- Don’t block crosswalks – no matter where a crosswalk is located, if you block it to stop at a red light or make a turn, you force pedestrians to walk around your vehicle, which can potentially put them in the path of traffic.
- Avoid extra driving manoeuvers – U-turns and three-point turns should be avoided as much as possible in school zones. Not only do they increase potential blind spots for drivers, but it’s hard for students to predict your vehicle’s next move, increasing the risk for accidents.
- Don’t drop students on the opposite side of the road from the school – this can be challenging to avoid in some cases, but wherever possible, try to drop your children on the same side of the street as the school. This saves them having to cross the road or deal with extra traffic (even with a crossing guard or school patrol person) to get to the school building.
Here are some best practices for Sharing the Road during Back to School from the National Safety Council.
Suggestions for Extra Safety
The school drop off and pick up is all part of the school year routine, so we’ve found some extra tips that might help make things a little smoother for you and your children:
- Carpool – if you have neighbours or other students that live close by or on the same route, consider sharing car rides and reducing the amount of traffic on the road overall, but also once you get to the school.
- Take public transit – this is another way to reduce the number of vehicles at school, and does your family’s part to be environmentally conscious. This can remove the challenges associated with driving students to school, and can also make things a little easier in the mornings and evenings, especially when parents or guardians make their way to or from work.
- Walk a little further – if you have to drive your children to school, perhaps park a block or two away from the school to park, and then walk everyone to the school building. This might require a few extra minutes in the morning, but it might be worth it so increase safety and reduce traffic.
Here’s a great guide from the Infrastructure Health & Safety Association – “Take Care When Driving Near School Zones”.
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