With the Labour Day holiday weekend over, it’s back to school for thousands of students across Canada. Although there’s never been a back-to-school season quite like this one because of the pandemic, motorists need to keep a sharp eye out for students who may be cycling or walking to school every day – especially when driving through school zones.
To help keep our roads as safe as possible – and your car insurance rate low by avoiding an accident or traffic violation – we’ve prepared some tips to help drivers remain alert and cautious when driving through school zones:
- Mind the speed limit. Typically, the speed limit in a school zone is 40 km/h. In some cities, like Toronto, speed enforcement 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 or during the lunch hour, which is all the more reason to drive slowly in these areas.
- Watch for school buses. Be mindful of driving behind or near school buses by not following too closely and being prepared to stop when the bus comes to a stop with flashing red lights. In Ontario, a charge of failing to stop for a school bus carries a penalty of six demerit points and a fine of up to $2,000 for a first-time offence. 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 no-no in a school zone. Likewise, do not U-turn or make a three-point turn since these manoeuvres can catch kids off-guard.
- Look out for pedestrians and cyclists. Because of the ongoing threat the COVID-19 pandemic poses, many students may 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 into the road from between parked vehicles or off 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 into the street with a handheld stop sign raised, make sure you come to a full stop. In Ontario, the Highway Traffic Act states all drivers must yield to crossing guards and pedestrians waiting at a crosswalk.
- 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 getting into collisions. Also, respect the ‘no parking’ and ‘no stopping’ zones near the school’s parking lot or bus stops.
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The Importance of Road Safety in School Zones
Whether your child is travelling to school by bus, bike, or walking, talk to them about road safety. The Canada Safety Council provides a number of safety tips to share with children for either circumstance. It’s also worthwhile to plan and practise your child’s route to school ahead of time.
Driving safely 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, ensuring kids get to and from school safely.