Back to school also means back to congestion: Yellow school buses picking up their students, kids on bicycles are hurrying to get to school before the bell rings, antsy parents are desperately trying to drop off the kids to avoid being late for work.
With all this going on, it's more important than ever for drivers to slow down and pay attention – especially before and after school.
If You're Dropping Off
Schools often have very specific drop-off procedures so be sure to familiarize yourself with your children's school procedures. More children are hit by cars near schools than at any other location, according to the National Safe Routes to School program. The following rules apply to all school zones:
- Avoid double parking; it blocks visibility for other children and vehicles
- Avoid unloading or loading children across the street from the school
- Make all efforts to carpool to avoid congestion at the school
Sharing the Road with Youngsters
According to research done by the National Safety Council, most of the children who lose their lives in bus-related incidents are younger than 7 years of age, and they're on foot. More often than not, they're hit by a vehicle illegally passing a stopped school bus. A few precautions go a long way toward keeping children safe and some of them are the following:
- Avoid blocking the crosswalk when stopped at a red light or waiting to make a turn, this could potentially put pedestrians in the path of traffic
- Stop and yield to pedestrians in schools zones when flashers are lit
- Always stop for a school patrol officer or crossing guard holding up a stop sign
- Take extra care and precaution looking out for children in school zones, near playgrounds and parks, and in all residential areas
- Never honk or rev your engine to scare or rush a pedestrian
- Never pass a vehicle stopped for pedestrians
Sharing the Road with School Buses
If you're driving behind a bus, allow a larger following distance than if you were driving behind a car. It will give you more time to stop once the yellow lights start flashing. It is illegal in every province to pass a school bus with the red stop sign extended and with lights flashing.
- Never pass a bus from behind – or from either direction if you're on an undivided road – if it is stopped to load or unload children
- The area 10 feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for children; give everyone entering or exiting the bus enough room to safely enter and get off the bus
- Be alert; children often are unpredictable and can move quickly. Many children can accidentally ignore lights or warnings
Sharing the Road with Bicyclists
On most roads, bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as vehicles but with that said, can often be incredibly difficult to see. Children riding bicycles create especially dangerous conditions for drivers if they aren't capable of reading traffic conditions or situations.
- When passing a bicyclist, proceed in the same direction slowly, and leave 3 feet between your car and the cyclist
- When turning left and a bicyclist is approaching in the opposite direction, wait for the rider to pass
- If you're turning right and a bicyclist is approaching from behind on the right, let the rider pass through the intersection ahead of you and always use your blinkers
- Watch for bike riders turning in front of you without looking or signalling; children have a tendency to do this so use extra caution
- Be extra vigilant in school zones and residential neighbourhoods
- Watch for bicycles coming from driveways or behind parked cars
- Always check mirror before opening doors to avoid hitting cyclists
Lastly, share these thoughts with your children and educate them on the safety of always exercising caution while getting to school. A little extra care can go a long way in saving a young ones life.