It’s been a great summer and many parents are happy to see their children returning to those hallowed halls of education. However students and drivers alike may still have their minds on the summer fun instead of on the road and the various school zones they encounter.
Whether you are driving a personal vehicle to work or a company issued vehicle it is important to play by the rules, especially when it comes to school zones.
There are more than 9,000 school buses on Ontario roads during the school year and more than 800,000 children on board. The rules that govern traffic around school buses are strict for a reason.
Don Danbrook, manager of prevention core services west central region with the Infrastructure Health & Safety Association, says school buses and their drivers are given rigorous testing and guidelines to which they must conform. Just as utility workers must conduct pre-trip inspections on vehicles, so must school bus drivers. This includes a 16-point outside inspection and a 28-point inside inspection. Drivers must obtain a class B license and are required to have regular medical check-ups to maintain physical standards for driving. They undergo criminal checks and must be 21 even to receive the required license.
Section 175 of the Ontario Highway Traffic Act deals specifically with school buses and crossing guards. It clearly states that in the case of a crossing guard assisting children across the street near a school, “Where a school crossing guard displays a school crossing stop sign as provided in subsection (2), the driver of any vehicle or street car approaching the school crossing guard shall stop before reaching the crossing and shall remain stopped until all persons, including the school crossing guard, have cleared the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle or street car is travelling and it is safe to proceed.”
According to the Ministry of Transportation, school bus drivers are rarely the cause of collisions. School bus drivers involved in fatal or injury crashes are more likely than drivers in similar crashes to be driving properly (57 per cent compared to 47 per cent). The major causes of collision were failure to yield (29 per cent of improper driving actions), following too close (16 per cent) speeding (11 per cent) and losing control (11 per cent).
It isn’t cheap to do things the wrong way in school zones or near school buses. Vehicle owners can be charged if their vehicle illegally passes a stopped school bus. Fines range from $400 to $2,000.
The following information from the Canadian Automobile Association provides some helpful hints about safe driving in school zones and near school buses.
Observe school zone speeds
Although you should be obeying posted speed limits all the time, it is especially important during the school year. Children are continually crossing roads on their way to and from school and often aren’t paying attention, so going slowly and being vigilant is extremely crucial to keeping kids safe. In addition, children are often out at recess, lunch hour, and for certain classes, so it’s important to drive slowly the whole day and not just during high traffic times in the morning and afternoon.
Obey the crossing guard
The crossing guard is there to keep children safe. So, if you come up to a set of lights, and the light turns green in your favour, but the crossing guard still says stop, his or her direction takes precedence. There might be a child still crossing the street that you can’t see or something else. Whatever the reason, they are trying to keep kids from harm, so it’s important to do what they say.
Exercise caution around school buses
The school bus is a great way for kids to get to and from school, however, because of the large amount of children entering and exiting the bus at various stops, it is imperative that extra caution is used when driving around a school bus. Obviously, you shouldn’t pass a school bus when the signal lights are flashing (as kids are often crossing the road at that time), and in addition, you should always watch your speed around school buses as a generally precautionary measure.
Watch for darting children
Kids are small, excitable creatures and unfortunately for drivers, this can create dangerous situations on the roads. It’s important to be continually vigilant and alert behind the wheel this back to school season. You never know when a small child might dart out from between two parked cars and your fast reflexes are what’s needed to prevent an injury or fatality.
Don’t forget about frosh
It’s back to school season for more than just little kids. If you live in an area that has a college or university, you’re probably used to the massive number of students invading your home town each fall, and probably don’t think much of it. However these students are often not as cautious as they normally would be, and cross the roads without looking. Being extra vigilant around these students could save a life.
The back to school season is a time of excitement and new beginnings, but before you head out on the road this season, be sure to refresh your memory on safe driving tips, so that everyone’s new beginning is a safe one.
Stay alert and drive aware
Distractions like talking on your cell phone (even hands-free), playing with the radio or CD/MP3 player can be deadly. Slow down, be courteous to other drivers, and arrive alive. To find out more about initiatives underway to keep our roads healthier and safer, check out “A new way to transform road safety culture in Ontario” elsewhere in this issue.
How we can help
Listed below is a sampling of resources offered by Health & Safety Ontario member organizations:
Visit the Motor Vehicles topic page for additional information – Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS)
Article: A new way to transform road safety culture in Ontario – Workplace Safety & Prevention Services (WSPS)
Defensive Driving and Drive Alive Training (1/2 day courses) – Public Services Health & Safety Association (PSHSA)
Heavy Equipment – an overview of heavy equipment hazards, tips and related resources: Infrastructure Health & Safety Association (IHSA)
Road to Safety – Workplace Safety North (WSN): a 15-page download on how to implement a safe driving program. Includes risk management checklists for large, medium and small businesses.
Road safety hazards apply at the worksite as well as off. Related WSPS resources include: