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Back to School and Driving Safe

Back to School and Driving Safe

September 29, 2014

Thousands of children across B.C. headed back to school last week which means drivers need to once again be on alert for backpack toting students and the extra traffic on our roadways.

Each year when school starts up again, police, school boards and ICBC remind motorists to slow down and pay attention in school zones, not to mention anywhere else students may be travelling to and from class, such as intersections and crosswalks.

It’s also a good time to revisit the rules of the road around school zones and buses: When school is in session, a 30km/h school zone speed limit is in effect from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., unless otherwise posted. When school bus lights are flashing, drivers approaching from both directions must stop. Drivers must also yield to pedestrians. After all, it’s the law.

Drivers should also be prepared at any time to stop for the vehicle in front of them, since they may be the ones yielding for a pedestrian. Also, always watch for pedestrians when you’re backing up the car. To make sure there are no small children behind your vehicle, experts recommend walking around it before getting in.

For parents dropping off children in a school zone, make sure they leave the vehicle on the sidewalk side of the car. They should never cross mid-block.

Parents should also teach their children about safety on the roads. For instance, kids should be encouraged to remove their headphones and put away smartphones when crossing the street so they’re not distracted and can pay closer attention to the traffic around them. Kids should also try to make eye contact with drivers when crossing the street, so they both see each other.

ICBC even has a song, called “Walk ‘n’ Roll,” to help remind kids about road safety. Encourage your kids to sing it, to whatever beat they like. They lyrics are simple: “Wear something bright; Look left and look right; Wait for the light; Make sure you’re in the driver’s eyesight.”

Unfortunately, on average in B.C., five child pedestrians aged five to 18 are killed and 290 injured in 270 car crashes every year according to ICBC data from 2009 to 2013. That’s why it’s crucial that both drivers and students pay attention on our roads.

Officials also encourage drivers to plan ahead and be alert. That’s because driving routes with less traffic in the summer may be busier now that school is back in session. It’s a good idea to give yourself extra time to get to where you need to be. This is especially true as the fall and winter weather make for wetter roads.
Here’s a final lesson for parents: Children pay attention to your driving habits. Experts recommend driving smart to set a good example for the next generation. That includes keeping your hands on the wheel, not your smartphone!

Blair Qualey is President and CEO of the New Car Dealers Association of BC. You can email him at bqualey@newcardealers.ca.

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