As much as we do not want to face it, summer is slowly coming to an end. This means the school year is starting back up! Whether you have kids that are going to school or not, this affects everyone in our communities. School means increased traffic, school buses loading and unloading their passengers, kids on bikes hurrying to beat the school bell, rushed parents trying to get to drop-off and then hurry to work. There is a reason we have lower speed limits in school zones, and these areas should draw your increased attention to your surroundings.
Most schools have a set drop-off and pick-up procedures in place for the school year. For the sake of the kids and other parents, become familiar with those procedures and ask if you are unsure. The following rules apply to all school zones:
• Double parking is prohibited;
• For the safety of all kids and drivers, do not load or unload kids across the street from the school unless there are drop-off locations located in that area;
• Carpooling is not only helpful for our environment, but it also helps alleviate the high volume of traffic around the school;
• No passing in school or playground zones;
• Never pass a stopped bus in a school zone. Some school buses may have yellow or red flashing lights or an extended stop arm, but not all busses may have these features;
• Typically, school zones are 30km/hr but always look and read the posted limit for the specific times that speed limit is in effect. If no signs are posted, drive slowly and cautiously;
• Look for pedestrian crosswalks. Many schools use school patrol officers or crossing guards in high-visibility vests, with stop signs to help assist pedestrians and drivers. Follow their signals if you are approaching a patrolled crosswalk;
• Do not block a crosswalk when you are stopped. If pedestrians have to go around your vehicle, you are putting them in danger by having them navigate around your vehicle into potentially oncoming traffic;
• Always stop when flashers are blinking or when pedestrians are at a crosswalk.
When you are sharing a road with young pedestrians, it is important to remember that kids can often get excited or nervous for the new school year and their minds may not be focused on the hazards of the road. As a driver you, need to be prepared to stop suddenly.
If a school bus stops in front of you, provide the bus with plenty of space so kids can enter or exit the bus safely. Extra caution should be given around school buses, as children are unpredictable and may not know the hazards or risks of the road yet!
While the weather remains nice, many kids may be on bicycles, requiring drivers to use extra caution on the roads. When you are turning left and a bicyclist is approaching, wait for the rider to pass; if you are attempting a right turn and a bicyclist is approaching either behind you or on the road you are turning onto, again wait for the rider to pass. It is also important to be scanning for bikes coming from driveways or behind parked cars.
The transition from summer months into the school year bring a variety of hazards, but with the risks that they present all drivers should be using extra attention and care to the hazards of the roads, especially around school and playground zones.