Dropping off/picking up your child from school this year? 7 tips to make it more safe
This year, due to the pandemic, we have heard from parents and caregivers that more children and teens will be dropped off and picked up at school in personal vehicles. School zones often have a lot of traffic, stressed drivers and distracted children, making these areas very dangerous for pedestrians. If you are planning to drive your kids to school regularly this year, there are many “moving parts” to think about and prepare for. Here are the top 7 tips for getting your children to school and back home again safely:
Tip #1: Teach your children about pedestrian safety rules.
Make sure all kids in your vehicle are familiar with the basic pedestrian rules. The following rules should be reinforced repeatedly, because while young children can often “recite” the rules, they can also easily forget them when excited and they don’t always understand what could happen if they don’t follow the rules. The most important reminders include:
- Crosswalks: Show your children where the crosswalks are and explain that they should always use the crosswalk when crossing the street, and that trying to cross in an area without a crosswalk is very dangerous.
- Crossing guards: If your school zone has crossing guards, explain to your children why they are there and how they help.
- Keep eyes open: Teach your children to look left and right, make eye contact with drivers and make sure cars are fully stopped before using the crosswalk.
- Avoid distractions while crossing: Remind your children to put down phones, turn off music and take out earphones while crossing the street.
Finally, if it is possible, it’s always a good idea to stop your car on the same side of the street as the school, and have your children exit the car from the door next to the sidewalk. This helps remove the need for your children to cross a busy street; however you will need to check with your school’s policies to see if such a spot is available.
Tip #2: Know your school’s drop off/pick up practices.
Every school has its own unique rules for drop-offs and pick-ups. Before driving your child to school, make sure you understand important details such as: where you can and cannot stop, what time you should arrive and how you can safely avoid the bus stops. Following the rules at your school will help make it safer for everyone.
Tip #3: Always obey safety rules and posted signs—even if you are late.
We’ve all had those crazy mornings where you are running late. However, unsafe driving practices such as speeding, distracted driving or stopping in the “no stopping or parking anytime” zone can be a recipe for disaster in terms of child safety. It’s simply not worth taking safety risks like this to avoid a late notice—and the school will always agree!
Tip #4: Know the traffic rules in school zones.
Familiarize yourself with the various speed zones around your school. If the speed limit is 50 kilometers per hour, drivers must slow to a maximum of 30 kilometers when children are present. If the speed limit is higher than 50 kilometers per hour, drivers must slow to a maximum of 50 kilometers in school zones when children are present. During school hours, drivers must always lower their speed and assume children are present.
Drivers should always watch for school buses and be familiar with the changes they bring to traffic speed and flow, including the following:
- Be prepared to slow down and possibly stop whenever you see a school bus.
- When a school bus stops and flashes red lights, traffic approaching from either direction must stop before reaching the bus.
- Know that you must remain stopped for a school bus until the red lights stop flashing and the stop sign on the bus is raised.
Tip #5: Consider other options to get to school
Remember that driving your child to school or taking the school bus are not the only options. Depending on how far you live from your school and the age of your child, children can safely walk or bike to school. Using these modes of active transportation will help to reduce traffic around the school and add physical activity into your child’s morning routine. If you are considering allowing your child to walk or bike to school, the following tips can help to keep them safe:
- If your child is under the age of 10, consider accompanying them on their walk or bike ride. Young children are much less likely to understand pedestrian rules and consistently follow them.
- Practice the route to school with your child. Identify where they can safely cross the street using a crosswalk and also identify any potential dangers, such as construction work.
- Have your child walk or bike with at least one other person. If there are other families in your neighborhood, you can organize for the children to walk together or have one parent accompany the group.
- If your child will be biking to school, ensure that they always wear a properly fitting helmet.
Tip #6: Make sure that all children in your vehicle are properly buckled into the right seat for their age and stage.
When carpooling your children and other kids to school, remember that it is your responsibility as the driver to make sure that everyone is safely buckled in the right seat. Consider having an
extra booster seat in the trunk for times when you may need to drive a big kid who may not have one. Make your car a place where all kids ride safely.
If your child is driving to school with another family member or friend, make sure to provide your child’s car seat or booster seat and confirm that the driver knows how to use it. Teach your child how the seat belt or buckles should fit and to speak up when they need help to buckle safely.
Make sure that all adults are buckled up too! Sometimes adults forget that they need to wear their seat belt – even for short rides! Your kids are safer when everyone is buckled up.
Tip #7: Offer to help out your school if you can.
If you can spare the time, consider asking your school administration if they can use some extra help. Many schools and child-care providers use volunteer crossing guards, sidewalk monitors and greeters to help children get out of cars safely and quickly with all of their belongings.
The staff at Child Safety Link wish you all a safe and happy return to school!