Wednesday, September 7 marks the first day back to school for thousands of students across Canada. As the summer holidays end, motorists need to keep a sharp eye out for students who may be cycling or walking to school every day.
To help keep our roads as safe as possible — and your car insurance rate low — we’ve prepared some tips to help you remain alert and cautious when driving in school zones:
- Mind the speed limit. Typically, the speed limit in a school zone is 30-40 km/h. In some cities, like Toronto, speed cameras are in place in community safety zones to catch anyone driving over the limit. Avoid speeding, especially when driving through a residential neighbourhood or school zone. Remember: kids are often outside throughout the day for recess, which is even more reason to drive slowly in these areas.
- Watch for school buses. Be mindful of driving behind or near school buses. Don’t follow too closely and be prepared to stop. Do not pass a school bus when its red lights are flashing. Drivers will get a penalty of six demerit points and a fine of up to $2,000 for a first-time offence if convicted of failing to stop for a school bus in Ontario. The penalties for failing to stop for a school bus are more severe if it’s a second offence, with a fine of $4,000 or possibly a six-month jail term.
- Don’t pass other vehicles in a school zone. Passing another vehicle typically involves speeding up, which is a big no-no in a school zone. Likewise, do not make a U-turn or three-point turn since these manoeuvres can catch kids off guard.
- Look out for pedestrians and cyclists. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, some students may still avoid taking public transit in favour of walking or cycling to school. Kids are kids, and they may not always be paying attention to the traffic around them, so be vigilant and be prepared to stop suddenly should a child dart out onto the road from between parked vehicles or the sidewalk.
- Obey crossing guards in school zones. Crossing guards are responsible for halting traffic so children can safely cross the street. If you see a crossing guard stepping off the curb onto the road with a handheld stop sign raised, make sure you come to a full stop. The Highway Traffic Act states that all drivers must yield to crossing guards and pedestrians waiting at a crosswalk in Ontario.
- Use designated drop-off and pick-up areas. Many parents will drive their children to and from school or to the location where a school bus transports them. Make sure to use the designated areas when dropping off or picking up your child from school to help decrease traffic congestion and avoid a collision. Also, respect the “no parking” and “no stopping” zones near the school’s parking lot or bus stops.
The importance of road safety in school zones
Whether your child travels to school by bus, bike, or foot, talk to them about road safety. The Canada Safety Council provides several safety tips to share with children for either circumstance.
Tips for bus riders:
- Stay on the sidewalk, far away from the curb, until the bus has come to a complete stop.
- Never stick anything out the window, including hands.
- Never attempt to retrieve a dropped item from under the bus.
- Wait for the bus driver to signal when it is safe to cross the road.
Tips for cyclists:
- Wear a properly fitted helmet.
- Know and obey traffic rules and signals.
- Ride with the flow of traffic on the right-hand side of the road.
Tips for walkers:
- Stay on the sidewalk whenever possible.
- Cross the street at designated crosswalks.
It’s also worthwhile to plan and practise your child’s route to school ahead of time.
Safety is every driver’s responsibility, especially as traffic volumes increase. It’s also the best way to keep your auto insurance premium low, and more importantly, ensure kids get to and from school safely.
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