With hundreds of children getting dropped off by their parents on both sides of the road and hundreds more mingling with their friends on the block, passing a school zone will have your eyes being drawn in every direction. Ensure you and your children stay safe this back-to-school season by following our list of rules and safety tips for driving in school zones:
Know When to Stop for a School Bus
According to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, almost 824,000 students travel in about 16,000 school buses on an average weekday. While school bus travel is considered very safe in Ontario, injuries and fatalities happen more often outside the buses as the students are boarding and leaving the vehicle.
That’s why there are strict rules for drivers travelling in both directions within their vicinity. While each town and city may have its own bylaws for driving around school buses, here are some general rules of thumb you should keep in mind:
- On a road WITHOUT a median strip, drivers traveling in both directions must stop for a stopped school bus if both its upper red lights are flashing
- On a road WITH a median strip, only vehicles coming from behind the bus must stop
- If you’re behind the school bus, stop at least 20 metres away
- If you’re approaching the school bus from the front, stop at what you consider a safe distance for children to get off and cross the road in front of you
Be prepared to stop for a school bus at any time, not just within school hours. Passing a stopped school bus could net you a fine of $400 to $2,000 and up to six demerit points for a first offence. Repeated offences can be more severe, with jailtime for up to six months.
Obey the School Crossing Guards
Oftentimes when you enter a school zone, you’ll encounter school crossing guards standing by the crosswalks. They’re legally permitted to stop traffic and assist children crossing the street. When a guard displays a red and white stop sign, you MUST stop before reaching the crossing, and remain stopped until everyone, including the guard, is safely off the roadway. Drivers that don’t follow these rules can receive a hefty fine and get three demerit points.
Be Aware of the School Zone Speed Limit
Understandably, school zones often have lower speed limits to protect children. When you drive into a school zone and are unable to locate a posted speed limit, keep in mind that in most Canadian provinces and territories, the statutory speed limit for school zones tend to be around 30 to 40 km/h in urban areas and 50km/h in rural areas.
Depending on where you live in Canada, speeding in school zones can cost you much more than speeding in other places. In Ottawa, if you’re caught speeding in a school zone, your fine can be increased by up to 60 per cent and cost you three demerit points if you’re caught going 20km over the speed limit.
Know Your Position in the School Parking Lots
When the bell goes off, children will scatter in every direction and the last thing on their minds will be safety rules. So be extra mindful when you’re entering the lot.
Travel in the directions designated in the lanes of the parking lot and be aware that car lines should be for drop-offs only. If you need to get out and walk your children in, park your vehicle to ensure the carline moves smoothly and avoid unnecessary risks.
All in All, Practice Safe and Responsible Driving
With so many things going through your head during the back-to-school season, driving safety concerns may be the last thing on your mind. Along with being a defensive driver, give yourself and your children some extra time to arrive to your destination and consider some of these useful tips on vehicle maintenance to ensure your car stays in working condition throughout the school year.
With all that’s said and done, car accidents, in the purest sense of the word, do happen. That’s why when you’re behind the wheel, being properly insured is what really counts. With Desjardins insurance, you’ll find the personal auto insurance coverage that’s right for you and your family. As Canada’s largest cooperative financial group, we offer advantages that can save you money and keep things simple for you – even when life gets messy. Get a direct auto insurance quote today, or speak with one of our licensed insurance advisors at 1-877-699-9923 for more details.