Back to School Safety Tips for Drivers

Keeping our communities safe in September starts with practicing safe driving and remembering to follow a few simple rules of the road.

Ontario’s new rules for the road are kicking in just in time for the Back to School season. As children head back to their desks this week, we’re reminding motorists to get rid of distractions and slow down – or face stiff fines. We blogged recently about how changes to Ontario’s road safety regulations would affect motorists, and those changes are now in full-effect. In fact, as of the start of this month distracted drivers can now be fined $490 and incur three demerit points. Stiffer penalties make perfect sense in light of the fact that pedestrian injury remains one of the leading causes of injury-related death among Canadian children. It’s all of our responsibility to keep our communities safe. With that in mind, here are five ways you can help keep roads safe now that school is back in session:

  1. Go slow:

    There are no two ways about it, excessive speed is dangerous. Always ensure that you’re driving under the posted speed limit, exercising an abundance of caution in school zones, especially when children are most likely to be outside of school grounds – right before the school day begins, at lunch and when school lets out. Remember that children are unpredictable; they may dart out onto the road suddenly, so be sure to drive slow enough that you can come to an unexpected stop safely.

  2. No distractions:

    Leave the cell phone in your bag; that text that you wanted to send can wait. Keeping our roads safe requires a driver’s full attention, especially at this time of year when all motorists must expect the unexpected with so many children headed back to class. Distractions don’t just come from cell phones; fiddling with radios or GPS devices, self-grooming and eating can all be distracting while driving. Good drivers keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road – at all times.

  3. No passing in school zones:

    When trying to pass another vehicle, drivers have to speed up as well as reduce their overall visibility of the road. Children trying to cross the street might not be expecting your car to be gathering speed or for you to be changing lanes. As a result, this dangerous practice is strictly prohibited in school zones; so is making a U- or three-point turn. It’s safer for everyone if all unpredictable driving manoeuvres are avoided by motorists while in a school zone.

  4. Obey the crossing guard:

    Children entrust crossing guards with their safety when crossing the road, so all drivers must obey them. According to the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, motorists who disregard the instructions of a crossing guard are guilty of an offence and may face a fine of up to $500.

  5. Watch for school buses:

    When its lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended, drivers travelling in either direction of a school bus must come to a complete stop. Children may be getting on or off the bus at this time and could run out onto the street, so be alert and once the lights turn off and the arm has retracted continue driving with extra caution.

Keeping roads safe during the Back to School season and beyond is a priority that we can all agree on. We can all do our part by remembering that children have a limited understanding of danger and can be easily distracted themselves.