Heading back to school will look a lot different this year—with mandatory masks for some students, staggered drop-off and pickup times, and designated entrances/exits. But one thing remains the same—setting a good example of safety on the way to and from school, by following these school zone safety tips.
1 SLOW DOWN IN SCHOOL ZONES The speed limit in school zones across Alberta is 30 km/h. In Calgary and Edmonton, school zones are playground zones, every day of the week from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Hours vary for different towns and cities according to municipal bylaws, but it’s important to remain watchful at all times. Since some schools are staggering the arrival and departure schedules of their students, there will be more sustained activity in a school zone than normal.
2 WAIT FOR KIDS TO WALK Small children are easily distracted and not the fastest pedestrians—and as part of COVID-19 protocols, they may be even slower as they practice physical distancing in crosswalks. Be patient. Many are walking to school for the first time on their own and just learning to pay attention while crossing by themselves. If your children will be walking to school, consider pre-planning a walk route with them to give you peace of mind. Or help gather a small group of close friends to walk together while remaining physically distanced.
3 POINT, PAUSE, PROCEED AT CROSSWALKS School patrollers help our children cross safely, but they aren’t always there to remind drivers to slow down. Make sure to stop when you see a child use the Point, Pause, Proceed method—and make eye contact with pedestrians. If you’re in the car with your children, explain what you’re doing and why—it sets a good example for them!
4 PAY EXTRA ATTENTION TO DROP-OFF AND PICKUP ZONES Make sure you’re familiar with your school’s drop-off and pickup zones—and where they are in relation to the designated entrance/exit doors for students. The morning rush and after-school pickups are the busiest times—and they could be even longer this year, as some schools adopt staggered drop-off and pickup schedules. We all have more on our minds these days and with children wearing masks, they’ll have reduced vision, so make sure to scan between parked cars, avoid bus zones, don’t stop near crosswalks or let passengers out in the middle of the road. Help reinforce the safety message by leaving a few minutes early and taking your time.
5 AVOID SCHOOL BUS ZONES Trying to park a school bus full of excited children is hard enough at the best of times. Buses have big blind spots and poor maneuverability, which is why we put the bus loading zones as close to the school as possible. Parking in the bus zone, even for a few moments, just adds to the congestion. When passing buses on foot, stay at least five steps back from the bus and stay extra alert for pedestrians when driving by.
6 AVOID USING SCHOOL PARKING LOTS Poor visibility and cramped spaces make parking lots dangerous for drivers and pedestrians. Even if there are visitor spots available, play it safe and park a block away to cut down on congestion. Encourage your kids to walk around parking lots, rather than cutting through. Please respect “No Parking” signs.
7 WALK WITH YOUR KIDS Better yet, consider parking farther away from the school and walking with your children. There are benefits to this beyond safety, including health and wellness and time to connect before and after school, while also enjoying the outdoors.
8 DRIVE (AND WALK) DISTRACTION-FREE By now we all know that being distracted behind the wheel can net you a pretty hefty fine. But did you know that around one out of every three collisions is due to driver distraction? Set a great example by staying focused, keeping your hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road. If you’re walking, teach your kids to put the phone away, avoid headphones, and always be aware of their surroundings, especially around moving vehicles.
9 SET A RESPECTFUL EXAMPLE When cyclists, drivers and pedestrians share the responsibility and look out for each other, everyone stays safe. We’ve all heard the expression “Do as I say, not as I do,” but let’s walk the talk in school zones. From obeying speed limits and no parking zones, to hopping off our bikes at crosswalks, and making eye contact with drivers, setting a good example teaches our children be safety leaders.
WE’RE HERE TO HELP Knowledge boost: To find out more about AMA’s recommendations about school zone safety, click here.
On the lookout: The AMA School Safety Patrol provides teachers, parents and patrollers with useful resources for safe school zone behaviours that they can pass on to younger children. Click here to learn more about the patrol.