Now that September is here, children are returning to school in force and that means we all have a responsibility to be a little more watchful on the roads. This is particularly important at times of day when children are more likely to be outside of the school – including when school begins, lunchtime and after school.
Safe Kids Canada reported that pedestrian injury is the third highest cause of injury related death among Canadian children. Driving defensively and observing the rules helps keep everyone safe and sound.
1. Always stop for a school bus when the lights are flashing.
In Ontario & Quebec, over 1.6 million children travel by school bus every day.
Children have a limited sense of danger and are often excited and energetic when getting on or off a school bus. Watch out for children who may dart out from between stopped school buses or parked cars. Don’t obstruct a school bus loading zones and be patient as children get on and off the bus.
Motorists travelling in both directions are required to stop for a school bus when its lights are flashing and the stop arm is out. Failing to stop for a school bus carries with it a fine of up to $2,000 and 6 demerit points.
2. Observe the posted speed limits.
It’s important to slow down as you approach a school zone and watch for children who may run out into harm’s way. Posted speed limits in school zones are typically either 30 km/hr or 40 km/hr. Travelling at a slower speed gives drivers time to stop safely in case there are children crossing the road unexpectedly. Playground zones have the same speed limits and are in effect from dawn until dusk each day.
Children may be out and about at various times throughout the day for recess, lunch time or field trips so you need to be careful when driving in school zones. Respect your school’s posted pick up and drop off areas to avoid creating unnecessary traffic congestion and unsafe conditions. This includes respecting “No Parking” and “No Stopping” zones.
3. Obey the crossing guard at all times.
Whether you think they are right or not, obey crossing guards at all times. Children expect that crossing guards will only allow them to cross if the situation is safe, so disregarding a crossing guard’s instructions can have serious consequences.
4. Do not pass other vehicles in a school zone.
This is a dangerous practice that is prohibited in school zones. When passing other vehicles, you may be travelling quickly and your overall visibility is reduced. Children crossing the street won’t expect you to be passing and won’t be prepared for your car being in a different lane than usual.
Similarly, you should not perform a U-turn or 3 point turn, or even driving in reverse in a school zone if you can avoid it. Any sort of unpredictable driving maneuver may catch children off guard and cause or contribute to an accident.
5. Expect the unexpected.
Children are unpredictable and can run out into traffic at any time. Watch carefully as you approach a school zone and be prepared for children to step on to the road unexpectedly.
More than 1,700 children lost their lives during after-school hours between 2000 and 2011
Although there has been a steady decrease in the number of tragedies each year, it’s important to remember that “one death is one too many.”