Safety Tips to Ensure a Safe Back To School Season for All
Back to school time has arrived and it’s time for kids and parents to break out of the summer holiday mindset and for drivers to prepare for the changes they’ll be seeing in their daily commutes once again. It’s not just the return of school buses that make the back to school commutes longer or more dangerous, there’s also students walking, cycling and driving to school, parents back to work from summer holidays or modified summer schedules, and there are kids out and about in places that could be dangerous if they and/or drivers are not aware of potential risks and being safe. With so many changes, it’s a great reason for the whole family to brush up on important tips to keep everyone safe!
• Students who ride the bus to school should arrive to their bus stop a few minutes before the bus is to arrive, and should never run to the bus stop even if late as their focus is on getting to the bus and perhaps not on being aware of dangers around them which could see them run into traffic or into a blind spot where the bus driver cannot see them and risk them being hit by the bus.
• When getting on the bus, students should wait until the bus has made a full stop and the driver has signaled it is safe to cross the road before moving off the curb. While crossing in front of the bus, students should stay at least three metres (10 feet) from the bus so the driver can see them. When exiting the bus, students should remain seated until the bus has come to a complete stop. Once a student has exited the bus, they should also stay at least three metres (10 feet) from the bus so the driver can see them and if are needing to cross the street, wait until the driver signals it is safe to do so before entering the roadway.
• Kids can be small and are often easily distracted; creating a potentially dangerous situation for drivers that can change in the blink of an eye. All drivers should be vigilant and alert behind the wheel anywhere there is a chance children may be present – not just in school zones, but also neighbourhoods with parks, and any intersection which may serve as a bus stop.
• Extra caution should be exercised when on the roads with school buses, whether following behind one or approaching one from any direction, always be mindful that there may be children around, and the driver could turn their lights and retractable crossing arm on at any moment. With those possible scenarios in mind, you should be the proper distance from a bus at all times and be prepared to stop.
• Remember that buses stop at all railway crossings, so leave space and time to adjust your driving for that to occur. Also remember it is extremely dangerous (and illegal!) to pass a bus which is stopped to load or unload with its lights and retractable crossing arm activated.
• As you drive in areas which are close to school zones, be mindful to look for changes in speed limits and follow the school zone speed limits as indicated on posted signs. Most school zones now have flashing yellow lights when the reduced speed limit is in effect, but extra care should be taken even outside of regular school hours as students may be coming and going from extracurricular activities earlier and later than usual school times. Drivers should also keep an eye open for crossing guards at intersections close to schools and obey crossing guards at all times. If you find yourself at an intersection with a crossing guard and the light turns green but the crossing guard still has their stop sign up, you should always default to the crossing guards’ instruction as they may see a child that you don’t, or a child may not have fully made their way off the roadway before the change in light.
• Plan your route and give yourself extra time for your commute for a few days or weeks while you adjust to the effect that back to school time and school buses can have on your commute. Never compromise your own safety or the safety of those around you by driving carelessly or recklessly trying to make up for delays or increased volume in vehicles on the road.
• Limit distractions which could take your focus away from safety. This applies to drivers, people walking, cycling, and should be practiced at all times not just during the school year. Phones and electronic gadgets are easy to grab your attention, but you should never in any circumstance text while driving (it’s illegal!), and you should think twice before texting with your head down while crossing a roadway.
We wish everyone returning to school for another academic year good luck in their studies and ask all to keep these safety tips in mind when on the roads!