Pedestrian safety is an essential part of a community's well being and nowhere is this more important than in a school zone. As a driver, it is your responsibility to ensure that children are protected from harm as they go to and from school.
Here are some simple tips you can use to help keep kids safe.
Most school zones have reduced speed limits, marked by reflective fluorescent signs. The limit varies between communities but the concept remains the same: reducing your speed allows you more time to react and brake in the event of an emergency.
Last year in Saskatchewan 13 people were injured and 2 were killed in school zone collisions. When it comes to children and vehicles, there is little margin for error. The difference between a near miss and a tragedy can be a matter of seconds.
The fine for speeding in school zones starts at $140 and goes up from there depending on your speed. You'll also be penalized 3 demerit points by SGI under the Safe Driver Recognition program, meaning you'll lose some of your discount or pay a financial penalty.
During drop-off times school zones can become extremely congested and it may be difficult to identify hazards. Pay special attention to kids waiting to cross the street. Young children tend to think vehicles can stop instantly and may begin crossing before it is safe to do so.
Be especially wary of kids darting between parked cars. Children are obviously much shorter than adult pedestrians, and though they may see you, they don't realize that you may not see them.
Obey crossing guards
Crossing guards - both adult and student - are there for 1 reason, and that is to protect youngsters as they cross the street. They are usually stationed near crosswalks and are immediately recognizable with their fluorescent orange vests.
When crossing guards extend their flags and enter the street you must come to a complete stop and wait for all pedestrians to cross. Do not proceed until the guard has returned to the curb, and even then be aware of stragglers running onto the street to catch up with their friends.
Exercise caution near school buses
Passing motorists are the single biggest threat to children as they enter or leave a school bus. Minimize the odds of a collision by avoiding bus loading zones whenever possible.
If you must drive in those areas, obey all signs and signals and watch for youngsters who may not know the rules of crossing the street.
Slow down as you approach a bus and come to a complete stop when its flashing red lights are activated. The lights, often accompanied by a stop sign, indicate that children are boarding or getting off the bus. You may not pass the bus until the lights are deactivated and the stop sign is retracted.
Use good judgment when stopping or parking
Parking is strictly prohibited in No Parking and No Stopping zones near schools. Keeping these areas free of vehicles is the best way to maintain visibility for other motorists.
When dropping your child off at school, remember not to stop in the middle of the road. Waiting drivers may become impatient and attempt unsafe maneuvers to pass, putting you and your child directly in harm's way.
It is also unsafe to let your child off near a crosswalk since they will need to cross in front of your vehicle to use it. Passing drivers won't immediately be able to see your child, which increases the risk of a serious collision.
Regardless of where you drop off your child, try to have them exit the vehicle on the curb side, preferably on the same side of the street as the school. This will minimize their danger of being struck by passing vehicles.
Finally, if you are stopped in a designated drop-off zone, be sure to turn off your vehicle's engine. Idling - particularly during cold weather - produces visible exhaust fumes that can obstruct the vision of other drivers and put the safety of young students at risk.