The school year is ending and with summer approaching there is no better time than now to discuss vehicle safety in school zones. It’s important that when you are in a school zone, or the surrounding neighbourhoods (everywhere, really), that you remain focused and observant. Children don’t always remember to look both ways before crossing the road and sometimes dash across the street to grab a lost ball.
Because we know that kids get excited to see their friends again, we’ve all been there, we can anticipate that unsafe crossing may and will happen. We need to be prepared for this to avoid accident and injury. These tips will keep everyone safe when schools let out and well after.
Obey the Safety Zone Speed Limit
In Canada, speed limits in school zones are 30-50 km/h, depending on the school’s location. The benefit of a slower speed is threefold; 1) Your response time is quicker, 2) Your vehicle will stop sooner and 3) Injuries are drastically reduced while death rates also lower. Obeying these limits ensures that you can react quickly to the movements of pedestrian or other vehicles and cyclists in the area. If your usual route crosses a school route it would probably be a good idea to give yourself extra time in the morning to slow down and allow for extra vehicles and pedestrians in the area, like school buses and students.
Make More Room for other Vehicles
If a student steps onto the street in front of you or in front of the car ahead of you, you need to be able to stop in time to avoid hitting them – this works in conjunction with maintaining a safe speed. Sweep your gaze to the sidewalks and beyond so you can see any kids walking and anticipate what they do, look under the front of parked cars for small feet, too. A generous amount of space ensures you have time to stop or swerve if a child steps onto the road in front of you without looking or in front of another automobile ahead of you. If you’re concerned that a child is approaching a roadway unsafely, don’t be afraid to tap the horn. The sound will alert them to the presence of your vehicle, which should stop them from crossing.
Kids Don’t Think like Drivers
As drivers, we are very observant and always looking around to keep an eye on other people sharing the road. We always check both ways before changing lanes or making a turn, but since kids don’t have that experience they don’t think or act like a driver. They’ll bolt across a crosswalk or street, push other kids, or just generally not pay attention to traffic. Again, be observant, anticipate their actions and obey the posted limit.
Finally, be patient. Slowing down slightly won’t make you any later for that morning meeting. Just give yourself time and remember the keys to safe school zone driving; observation, anticipation, slowing down and leaving space. For the sake of all those children (they are our future) don’t drive distracted. Pay attention to what is happening around you and be ready to react. We can all work together to make and keep our communities safe with these changes to our driving patterns.