It is almost September, and many Canadian children will be heading back to school for their first in-person classes after a prolonged absence caused by pandemic-related school closures.
It is common knowledge that the first weeks of the school year are often a time of increased danger for drivers and pedestrians, as they adjust to new routines and as an increased number of students, staff and vehicles converge on school property. This year, many schools may be revising drop-off and pick-up procedures and locations to accommodate social distancing and other public health directives, adding to the general level of distraction.
With this in mind, it is important that we turn our minds to our responsibility to children, as parents and motor vehicle drivers. Rules of the road are necessary in order to keep our children safe. Improper driving in a school zone could result in serious injuries, not to mention significant fines and could increase your insurance premiums. Passing a school bus improperly, failing to obey school crossing signs, speeding in school zones to name just a few, are all major offences and can easily be avoided by using common sense and driving carefully within the law.
Here are some important safely tips to remember when driving around school property:
- Always stop for a school bus when its lights are flashing. Children can be excited and energetic when going to, or getting off the bus. They might run to or from the school bus and across the road. When approaching a school bus, ensure that you stop well behind it and well in front of it when coming towards it, when its lights are flashing and its stop arm is out.
- Observe the appropriate speed limits. While the speed limits may seem low, when children run out into the road way, the slower speed will give you more time to react and stop to avoid an accident.
- Obey the crossing guard at all times. Crossing guards are responsible to help children cross the roadway safely. Children rely on the crossing guard to tell them when it is safe to cross and disregarding the crossing guard can put the children in peril as they may not be observing the traffic.
- Do not pass other vehicles in a school zone. Passing almost always involves traveling faster than the posted school speed limit, and lowers your reaction time. Children do not expect cars to pass in the area and in fact it is prohibited. You should also not perform U-turns or three point turns. Avoid driving in reverse because any unpredictable movements can catch children off guard.
- School staff take great care to develop drop-off and pick-up procedures that are intended to keep everyone safe, but following the rules often requires patience. Respect “No parking” and “No stopping” zones in order to avoid any unnecessary traffic jams which often lead to frustration and dangerous driving action. If possible, avoid driving into the school parking lot or any areas where school buses pick up and drop off the children.
- After COVID-19 restrictions and a long summer break, students of all ages would benefit from a refresher on pedestrian safety and school bus rules. Teaching your children about these rules (and reminding them regularly) will reduce the likelihood that your children will dart out into traffic, or disobey the traffic crossing guards or the school bus drivers who are there to protect them. Be a good role model for your children by obeying the same rules you expect them to follow.
- Children are unpredictable and can dart into traffic at any time. This goes as well for teenagers. As a driver, you are required to have control of your vehicle at all times. By observing the rules and driving slower, you will be better able to react and avoid an accident.
Accidents can be avoided. Accidents can cause your insurance rates to go up significantly. If you are sued you could be exposed to personal liability. Even if you are not at fault for an accident, there are untold emotional consequences to you. Slow down and be careful this school year.
At Howie, Sacks & Henry we represent all manner of accident victims, including those who have suffered injury at the hands of negligent operators of automobiles and trucks. If you or a loved one have been the victim of an accident or sustained injury as a result of a collision with a vehicle, please contact Michael Henry at 416-361-0889 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.