Back to School Means Sharing the Road Safely

North America News - September 2017

Head’s up, folks. The kids are back in school.

While the overall Transport Canada figures for 2015 (latest available) suggest a slight downward trend in pedestrian fatalities, some places, like Ontario, are posting sobering numbers. “Pedestrian fatalities in OPP jurisdiction increased significantly in 2016, with 38 deaths last year, compared to 25 in 2015.” (opp.ca.) While it stands to reason that urban centres will produce more pedestrians and cyclists making contact with vehicles, there are still things that all involved can do to push these numbers down.

Most of those pedestrians who die are in the senior (65+) age category. A Toronto Public Health study released last year showed that 67 per cent of those pedestrians involved in a collision with a car had the right-of-way; drivers are usually at fault. Seniors are overrepresented for several reasons, though leading the pack is the difficulty in recovering from injuries as we age.

Little ones don’t fare well, either. While traffic planners drop speed limits and introduce traffic calming measures, drivers are still speeding and still interacting with their phones and onboard systems. Front collision avoidance systems on many new cars – those that automatically apply the brakes – will save pedestrian lives. But what is needed far more than every safety feature manufacturers can dream up is a competent, engaged driver. Do one thing behind the wheel: drive.

Remember too, when your children are your passengers, they’re learning from you. Driving lessons don’t begin when they’re 16; they start from the moment they’re in the car, observing how you handle the ever-changing streetscape as well as the in-car distractions. Don’t get drawn into squabbles and sulks, and don’t take your eyes from the road.

You’ve been driving through school zones all summer without having to slow down. Take this into consideration on your route, and accept that it’s going to take you some extra time to get where you’re going. Anticipate increased speed monitoring in these areas, and not just during back-to-school week. Constable Clint Stibbe with Toronto Police Services told me of busting a woman doing double the posted limit one morning last year in a school zone, then busting the same woman the very next day – going the same speed. Sometimes, laws are not enough.

Pedestrians, cyclists, skateboarders, motorcyclists and those on scooters are all on the dangerous end of the equation upon meeting with a vehicle. All road users have a responsibility to know the law and obey it, and stay focused on what they’re doing.

Drivers:

 Slow all the way down in school zones. Always
 Follow the laws for school buses
 Obey crossing guards. Those guards know things about the kids they’re protecting, and hold their signs up until every kid is clear for a reason. They know that little ones may drop something and dart back onto the road. They’re watching for things you can’t see
 If you drive your child to school, drop them a block or two away. Reduce congestion in front of schools
 Kids do dumb things. You did dumb things. Be ready for dumb. Hitting a child isn’t something you want to live with, even if it wasn’t your fault
 Don’t honk unless someone is in imminent danger

Parents:

 Set a good example, and take routes you want your child to take when they’re not with you. Don’t jaywalk.
 Teach your child to make eye contact with a driver before they step off a curb
 Tell them not to cross a street while they’re texting, or even talking on their cell phone. Distracted is distracted, even for pedestrians
 Obey the crossing guard
 Rules of the road begin now, long before they learn to drive. Explain that drivers may be making right turns on red lights, and that drivers may be distracted. If your child is on a bicycle, teach them they are subject to the law, just like drivers
 Please put some reflective tape on backpacks and jackets, and have working lights on the front and back of bicycles. As we head into winter, your child might be invisible by 5pm.

Our cities are going to see more pedestrians and cyclists, not fewer. Share the road.

driving.ca

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