Avoid school zones, drivers urged

Back to school: drivers and parents reminded to slow down and watch for excited kids on the roads.

Famously friendly crossing guard Blanche Vantol on duty at Cloverdale's Martha Currie Elementary School earlier this year.

It’s back to class Tuesday, which means drivers will need to watch for excited children walking and biking to school, or hopping off busses.

Along with the usual reminder to slow down and pay attention, this September the BCAA Road Safety Foundation has gone one step further, recommending motorists avoid driving through school zones if possible throughout the school year.

“That goes for parents too,” says David Dunne, director of road safety programs for the foundation.

Parents who drive their children to school actually posse the greatest danger to child pedestrians and cyclists around schools, he says.

“The congestion caused by so many vehicles creates a very dangerous environment.”

Drivers are reminded to pay particular attention near schools during the morning and afternoon hours, and to obey the 30 km/h speed limit in school zones weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Injuries to child pedestrians are highest in September and October, the foundation says, with children aged five to 14 years at the greatest risk.

Speeding is the most common offence, but reports of drivers making U-turns, stopping in no-stopping zones, backing up onto crosswalks, rolling through stop signs, ignoring crossing guards, and letting children out from the drivers side onto oncoming traffic are also common, if dangerous, habits.

Children also need to be aware of dangerous distractions, says Linda Lawlor, BCAA Road Safety Foundation school safety program coordinator.

“Kids should not be talking or texting on their cell phones when they are in intersections or school zones,” she says.

Strong research indicates talking on a cell phone while crossing the street may increase a child’s risk of being struck by a vehicle by up to one-third, the foundation reports.

For more tips and information, visit www.bcaaroadsafety.ca.