Drivesmart column: Things to think about for back to school

I might have grown accustomed to not slowing down for the school zone

By Tim Schewe

Tuesday, Sept. 3, at 8:07 a.m. marked the opening of the elementary school nearest to where I live. Time to think about school zones and school bus safety for another year. It will be easy to obey the flashing red lights on the school bus, but I might have grown accustomed to not slowing down for the school zone after a summer of travel at 60 km/h instead of 30 km/h.

I am a creature of habit. One year the school zone in front of my house was changed from an advisory to a regulatory one when a 30 tab was applied to the sign. I honestly have no idea whether I saw the change the day it was made or some time after. So, I know that I have to pay particular attention until I am used to the lower speed required of me again.

ICBC media relations supplied a broadcast e-mail reminder a couple of days ago. It tells me that “Every year, 380 children are injured in crashes while walking or cycling and five are killed throughout the province.”

It is definitely a sobering thought and I was thinking about that more than a week ago when I e-mailed media relations to ask for statistics regarding collisions in school zones. What was supplied in the broadcast is a statistic that very likely contains incidents that have no connection to school related trips at all.

What is the extent of the problem that actually occurs in relation to school zones or travel to and from school that takes place outside the zones but are still part of a trip to school? I don’t know. Despite the request and a follow up e-mail last Friday, I am still waiting for a response.

Granted, it is difficult to capture incidents that are part of a school trip but occur outside a school zone. The MV6020 collision reporting form does provide for a description of school/playground to identify land usage in the collision area, but collisions have not been reportable to police for a long time now.

I trust that ICBC is collecting some accurate data when an insurance claim is made. The corporation does release an overview on the statistics page of their web site, but it is not nearly as detailed as what was shared in the past.

I suppose that it goes without saying that all road users need to exercise care in school zones. However, if we don’t know about the scope of the problem, how do we fix it if there is one?

If you are interested, I have written a number of articles on school zones and school buses in the past. There is also an excellent current article by Steve Wallace of Wallace Driving School.

I’ll finish up by providing ICBC’s school zone tips for drivers:

• If you drop off your child in a school zone, allow them to exit the car on the side closest to the sidewalk. Never allow a child to cross mid-block.

• If a vehicle’s stopped in front of you or in the lane next to you, they may be yielding to a pedestrian, so proceed with caution and be prepared to stop.

• Watch for school buses and when their lights are flashing, vehicles approaching from both directions must stop.

• Before getting into your vehicle, walk around it to make sure no small children are hidden from your view. Always look for pedestrians when you’re backing up.

• In residential areas, a hockey net or ball can mean that kids are playing nearby. Watch for children as they could dash into the street at any moment.

• Remember that every school day, unless otherwise posted, a 30 km/h speed limit is in effect in school zones from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. In playground zones, a 30 km/h speed limit is in effect every day from dawn to dusk.

There is also a Tip Sheet to download that assists parents in developing their child’s road safety smarts to make that trip back and forth to school a bit safer.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit DriveSmartBC.ca

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