Top Subject: 3 Back to School Safety Reminders
It’s early September and you know what that means – the kids are back in school. The days of finding activities to keep them busy are over, and you can share that responsibility with their teachers and textbooks. With that said, there’s the one responsibility that is yours to bear no matter what, and that’s the practice of driving safety around school zones. Yes, back to school safety is important for everyone, but it’s vital for you to do your part as well. Learning and applying these precautions will keep you out of legal trouble but even more important, it will reduce the risk of school kids, other parents and crossing guards getting hurt.
Why There’s No Outgrowing Back to School Safety
It’s fair to say that many people take school zones for granted. And since we’re all still running a bit in summer mode, we might have the tendency to drive carefree around schools when we should be more vigilant. It’s important to remember a few facts.
Kids are easily distracted
If you have a few kids of your own, you’ll no doubt recognize how short a child’s attention span is. One minute they’re sitting still and listening to you, the next minute they’re ready to run off and do their own thing. It’s part of their nature. The danger is that they’re sometimes too playful around busy roads. It’s important for parents to teach kids about road safety, but their carefree nature sometimes drives them to act before thinking. For example, if a ball or some object rolls into the street, some kids will run out to get it, paying little mind to the vehicles passing by.
School children are smaller
Although you might not want to picture it, a child who gets struck by a car is terrifying, and can be a tragic event. Kids are significantly smaller than adults, especially if they’re younger (elementary age), making a collision with a car much more serious. For example, the speed limit in an Ontario school zone is 40 km/h (reduced from the usual 50 km/h). If a car was to hit a child (or any pedestrian for that matter) at 60 km/h, they would have a 90% chance of death. The other dimension to their size is the fact that they’re not always visible. Unlike an older child or adult who you can see from a distance, young children can seemingly come out of nowhere. This can certainly be a problem if you’re driving a vehicle that’s high off the ground like truck or an SUV.
Traffic & pedestrian confusion
Despite the myriad of traffic signs and working crossing guards out there, school crosswalks can still get confusing and messy at times. Kids don’t always listen to the crossing guard, and there are drivers who act similarly. You will occasionally encounter those individuals who believe they’re above the law, and will speed in a school zone or overtake a school bus (which is a punishable offense). It goes without saying that these careless drivers endanger the lives of everyone around them.
Entering the School Zone
A lot can go wrong in a school zone. However, it all can be corrected if drivers practice the back to school safety tips that experts have given for years. They’re more than just a set of pesky rules – they’re lifesaving when followed.
1. Watch your speed
One of the most important safety reminders for school zone driving, is to watch your speed. Don’t speed! Follow the posted speed limit. Driving faster than necessary puts you and others at greater risk for getting in accidents. Braking, especially in rain or snow, is compromised and if you add excess speed in the equation, stopping to avoid a collision becomes unlikely. So the solution to this whole conundrum is to slow down when driving.
2. Watch out for the school bus
As mentioned earlier, it’s illegal to pass a stopped school bus when its lights are flashing. In Ontario, it carries a significant penalty of $400 – $2000 for a first offense, at six demerit points. It’s a hefty price. However, those consequences don’t compare to the loss of a child’s life. That’s why it is absolutely vital for you to stop when a school bus has stopped. Picturing your own kids getting on or off that bus will help you appreciate the importance of yielding to it. In addition to the school bus, you should be concerned about other motorists around you, including cars, public transit, taxis and cyclists. The drivers of some of these vehicles show little regard for others, and sometimes, you just have to drive defensively, giving them space so that no one else gets hurt.
3. Watch the crossing guard
It’s crucial for you to follow the lead of the crossing guard. Their job is to control the flow of traffic, so that there is no confusion as to who goes first. That’s why they’ll signal and blow the whistle for cars to stop and kids to cross. You need to watch their movements carefully. They are there to keep order at the crosswalks, so that drivers and school kids aren’t playing guessing games as to whom should cross – such a situation would be very dangerous. Listening to the crossing guard is an essential aspect of keeping young pedestrians safe.
Practice Makes Safety
School zones can be dangerous places if drivers aren’t careful. It’s true that kids and guards also need to learn and put back to school safety habits into practice as well, but the damage a car can cause to a person upon impact can be devastating, especially if that person is a child. For that reason, you as a driver need to be more cautious than the young pedestrians who are walking to and from school. Your efforts to drive at a reasonable speed, and avoid making unsafe turns or passes will go a long way in keeping school zones safe. Ultimately, you’ll have peace of mind knowing that your driving behaviours are keeping kids out of danger.