Back-to-School Safety Tips for Drivers

School is back in session, making September a dangerous month for pedestrians. Here are five tips for safe driving at this time of year.

by Mary Wimmer

Did you know that between 2013 and 2017, there were 858 collisions resulting in 213 injuries involving school buses or occurring in school zones in Ottawa alone?

Keeping communities safe as the kids head back to school this month starts first with drivers. Remember: no distractions, slow down, and always follow the rules of the road.

Here are five tips to always follow:

  1. Go slow. There are no two ways about it, excessive speed is dangerous. Never exceed the speed limit. Exercise caution in school zones, especially when children are likely to be outside of school grounds – right before the school day begins, at lunch and when school lets out. 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. Ditch distractions. Don’t eat, text or groom yourself while driving. Adjust your seat, mirrors, seat belt, and radio and GPS before you pull out of your driveway. And leave the phone well alone. Keeping our roads safe requires a driver’s full attention. Good drivers keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road – at all times.
  3. No passing in school zones. 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 – and so is making a U- or three-point turn. It’s safer for everyone if all unpredictable driving manoeuvres are avoided while in a school zone.
  4. Obey the crossing guard. Crossing guards do more than protect children. They give signals to drivers – who must watch for any and obey those signals. Failure to do so is against the law. In school zones, watch out for CAA School Safety Patrollers. These are student-volunteers (some 20,000 children at 800 schools across Canada) who help students safely cross the road and board the school bus, every day. Watch out for these students, who wear neon-green safety vests to identify themselves, and show them the respect they deserve.
  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. Only when the flashing lights have been turned off, and the arm has retracted, can motorists continue driving; however, continue to exercise caution.

Remember, it’s up to you to drive cautiously and remain on alert for children and other pedestrians!