Summer draws to a close and schools are ready for the return of some 21,000 students, who will be arriving in many different ways.
As summer winds down and the school year begins anew, children will be travelling to and from their local schools by public or private transportation as well as on bikes, roller blades, skateboards and foot. As a motorist, what does that mean for you?
It’s simple: When you’re driving, slow down and watch for children. It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re in a school zone as kids have to walk from their neighbourhood to get to school so there are going to be children everywhere, even if a school isn’t nearby. School zones are good reminders to slow down but there will be still be children running around, darting in and out of traffic outside of school zones.
Slowing down doesn’t just apply to 8:30 in the morning and 3:30 in the afternoon (or whenever school lets out in your area). Children who live near school might go home for lunch. Or, children might be late getting to school or going home early.
Don’t forget, it’s not just children you have to watch out for, as school buses are back in service. A school bus displaying its stop sign and flashing red lights means you must stop until the lights and signs are deactivated, regardless of which direction you are headed. School buses also tend to be an obvious indicator that children will be nearby.
It’s crucial that drivers slow down in school zones, watch for crosswalks, and be mindful of school traffic safety patrollers. “Be alert and watch for kids riding to school on their bikes,” said Regional Traffic Safety Officer Dave Gibson. “We all want our children to arrive at school and home safely.”
Members of the RCMP Central Okanagan Traffic Services and speed watch volunteers will be stepping up their presence, making school zones a priority. School zone speed limits are 30 km/h between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. commencing Tuesday, Sept. 4.
“We strongly encourage students and their parents to consider walking or cycling to school to reduce traffic congestion around the schools and increase student safety,” said Officer Gibson.
Tips for Pedestrians:
Remove your headphones; put away your phone, MP3 player or other gadgets when crossing a street. Focus your full attention on the road so you can see, hear and respond safely.
Use designated crossing points and follow pedestrian traffic signs and signals. Make eye contact with drivers, so you both know you see each other. The most common road safety error made by kids is not finding a safe place to cross. Teach your child to cross at intersections that have a pedestrian crossing light or a marked crosswalk whenever possible.
Dress to be seen. Wear bright or light coloured clothing. In dark or bad weather, wear reflective material on clothes or accessories.
Always walk on the inside edge of the sidewalk—away from the road. This way, you’re further away from the traffic. If there is no sidewalk, always walk facing traffic so you can see oncoming vehicles and drivers can see you.
Be aware of parked vehicles in parking lots and on the road. Drivers may not see you between parked vehicles and you may not see them moving. Before crossing or walking through a parking lot, stop and look left-right-left around the parked vehicle and avoid taking unnecessary shortcuts through parking lots.
Tips for drivers:
When school is in session, a 30 km/h school zone speed limit is in effect from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every school day, unless otherwise posted.
Plan ahead and be alert. Driving routes with less traffic in the summer may now face congestion, so give yourself extra time to get to your destination. Take your time and don’t rush – especially through intersections. Look for children especially near or around crosswalks and intersections close to schools.
When dropping off children in a school zone stop and allow them to exit onto the sidewalk side of the car. Never allow a child to cross mid-block.
If a vehicle is stopped in front of you or in the lane next to you, they may be yielding for a pedestrian, so be prepared to stop.
Always watch for pedestrians when you’re backing up. Before you get into your vehicle, make it a habit to walk around your vehicle to ensure no small kids are behind it. And remember, children will notice your driving behaviour as well as your pedestrian behaviour, so please set a good example for them.
Tickets and fines under the BC Motor Vehicle Act:
Speed in school/playground zone $196-$253
Fail to stop for school bus $167
Fail to yield to pedestrian $167
Pass vehicle yielding to pedestrian $167
Disobey school guard/patrol $167