Children crossing the street on the way to school.
What we can do to help protect children on their way to and from school
Before kids return to school this fall, we all have some homework to do. Close to 30 percent of drivers have seen a near-miss or a collision in a school zone, according to a recent study conducted by the CAA.
“The area between your home and the nearest school, on a daily basis, is one of the most dangerous places for a child,” says Ian Jack, Vice-President of Public Affairs at CAA National. “And that shouldn’t be the case.”
Inspiring improved safety
For decades, CAA has been involved in getting children to school safely. Ongoing projects include the CAA School Safety Patrol program (schoolpatrolmanitoba.com)—the organization’s oldest safety initiative—and the CAA School Zone Safety Assessment Tool, an online app that tracks risky behaviours such as speeding and jaywalking.
“Student safety is a paramount concern,” says Heather Mack, Manager of Government and Community Relations at CAA Manitoba. “We have heard from parents of school-age children who believe that school zones and playground zones are becoming more dangerous for kids of all ages.”
But who’s ultimately responsible for helping protect students? According to Jack, everyone from government policymakers to municipalities and school boards play a part, but especially motorists. A simple step CAA Members can take is having a household discussion about school zone safety. Here’s a quick refresher.
Lesson 1: Stay alert
Both drivers and pedestrians should plan their routes and be aware of their surroundings throughout their journey. Drivers should always check for people crossing at intersections or crosswalks, and watch for kids who may dart into traffic between parked cars.
Pedestrians of all ages should stop, look both ways, listen and think before crossing the street. Take the time to ensure all vehicles come to a complete stop and make eye contact with motorists—never assume drivers can see you.
Lesson 2: Eliminate distractions
In your vehicle, take care of weather and traffic checks, GPS settings, music choices, calls or texts before you drive. Eliminate distractions, be alert, stay focused, and obey the posted speed limits in school zones, playgrounds and parks.
Tell kids—whether walking to school or leaving a vehicle—to focus on what’s happening around them. They can save the texting, gaming, music, social media and headphone use for when they’ve finished walking.
Lesson 3: Follow the rules
Both drivers and pedestrians should know the locations of crosswalks, school zones and any designated student drop-off/pick-up areas along their routes.
In addition, drivers must obey posted traffic signs—including school zone speed limits—and yield to pedestrians crossing the street. And don’t double or triple park in school zones. While you might feel like you’re saving a few seconds, you’re putting yourself, your kids and other pedestrians at greater risk.
Pedestrians should always cross the street at crosswalks or intersections and follow traffic signs and signals. Parents, talk to your children about the dangers of jaywalking. Remember, all adults can set a good example by not jaywalking.