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Back to School Driving Safety 101

Kids walking to school
Photo: iStockphoto

The days have gotten a little shorter…the air is a little crisp…you have an overwhelming urge to buy a box of Number 2 pencils and a shiny new binder…it must be back-to-school time!

September is one of my favourite times of year but it can also be one of the diciest times on the road. With school back in session, there's a lot more traffic - and a lot of studious youngster walking, riding and getting dropped off at school.

According to a Safe Kids Canada study, the first two months of school are the most dangerous for child pedestrians - so stay safe this back-to-school season with these driving safety refreshers.

More cars on the road = more commute time. Your usual commute may be affected by back-to-school traffic, even if you don't live near an actual school. Holidays are over and the overall volume of traffic will be higher. So be sure to allow extra driving time for your commute so that you won't be tempted to speed to get to work on time.

Respect the speed limits. Obviously, speed limits are lower in school zones, but be vigilant when driving in residential areas as well. While the weather is still good, more kids will be walking, skateboarding or riding their bikes to school. Children on the sidewalk can be difficult to see behind cars parked on the street, so be sure to scan the ground for little feet getting ready to cross the street.

Get rid of distractions. Even if you're using a hands-free phone, your reaction time is affected if a child should dart out in front of your car. Turn off the phone and save coffee or snacking for later - give driving your full and undivided attention.

Obey the school bus rules. When the upper red lights are flashing, drivers travelling in either direction must stop until all of the children have exited the bus. Also, if you're behind a school bus, be sure and leave lots of room - they often make sudden stops.

Avoid driving into the school parking lot. Few areas are more congested than a school parking lot the first few weeks of school. If you're dropping off the munchkins, try to park somewhere less chaotic to let them out.

Respect the crossing guard. Kids trust the crossing guard's judgment, even if you don't. Always come to a complete stop when the crossing guard's STOP sign is up.

Take it easy on new drivers. In high school areas, newly licensed drivers who've been practising all summer may be experiencing back to school traffic for the first time. Be patient and set a good example for those more inexperienced drivers - after all, you were just like them once.

Back to school time is also a good time to educate your kids on pedestrian safety. Check out this article at Parachute Canada for tips on how best to teach your kids to stay safe on the streets.

Hope you all have a safe and happy back-to-school season!

- Rose R.


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