Written By: Joseph Cescon and William Harding, Student-at-Law
A new school year is upon us, a very exciting time for both children and their parents. While this is a happy time of year, it is important that drivers are especially cautious, particularly in areas around schools. With the influx of children returning to school, there is an increased risk of vehicle-pedestrian collisions. This article will outline some of the risks drivers should be conscious of during the back to school season, as well as some of the steps that should be taken to lower the chance of an accident.
It is important that drivers are prepared for an increase in traffic during this time of year, especially in areas near schools and during the times when school is about to begin or just letting out. There will be a great deal of child pedestrians, so it is critical to reduce speed and to remain aware at all times. In addition to pedestrians, there may also be school busses completing their routes in the morning and afternoons. Be prepared to stop unexpectedly, and always respect the bus stop sign.
If possible, it is advisable to give yourself a few extra minutes in your morning commute to account for possible additional traffic. This will ensure that you won’t be put in a position where you need to rush in order to make it to your destination on time.
While it is always good practice to drive free of distractions with your attention focused on the road, this is increasingly so when driving in areas with children. It is important to remember that children do not have the same decision making and risk assessing abilities as adults do. Children may be easily distracted, and may not be as aware of their surroundings and any risks that may be present. A driver may think a playing child sees their approaching vehicle, only to have the child suddenly dart onto the road. For this reason, maintaining your focus on the road and reducing your speed around children is critical.
In addition to the above, drivers dropping off and picking up children from school face additional challenges. It is at these times that the roads are often the most hectic, as children may be rushing to class in the morning, or excitedly heading home in the afternoon. Considering this, it is unsurprising that children are at the greatest risk for being struck by a vehicle in the area immediately near their school. There are however, a few simple steps that can be taken to greatly reduce the risk to children when being dropped off or picked up.
The first tip is to never double park. Double parking refers to stopping to let your children out beside a car that is already parked on the road. It is depicted in the diagram below.
The reason double parking is dangerous is because it reduces visibility for both other drivers and pedestrians. If no proper parking spots are available, then it is best drive a few meters down the street and off load at a safe location.
The next tip for dropping off children is to always have them exit and enter the vehicle on the curbside (in most cases, the passenger side). As mentioned above, children have not yet developed risk awareness to the level of an adult. Children often quickly exit the vehicle without first checking if the coast is clear. If the passengers of your car exclusively exit on the curb side, this will eliminate the risk of children stepping out of the vehicle and into traffic.
Following the above driving suggestions will help ensure the safety of all children during this back to school season. While it is true that risks of child personal injury are higher this time of year, if proper precautions are taken by all drivers, then there is no reason this won’t be a safe start to the school year for everyone.