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It’s the start of a new school year, and with it comes busier schedules and streets. So, in between signing new club forms and packing nutritious lunches, take a moment to review a few of these back-to-school driving tips.

Back-to-school safety tips for motorists

After the laid back summer months, getting back into a routine with your kids can be tough at first. You’re scrambling to get your kids out of bed, in the car, and to class before zipping off to work yourself. Combine that with hundreds of other parents rushing around town, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

Consider all zones school zones

School zones mandate reduced speed limits to account for all the children crossing the street, getting off school buses, and exiting cars. But remember that school zones don’t exist in a vacuum; kids are still travelling by foot, by bike, and by car to get to those school zones in the first place. Play it safe by treating all zones with the caution you’d give a school zone, and be mindful of your surroundings.

Follow the sacred rules of the drop off line

"love waiting in the outrageously long drop-off line," said no parent ever.

Everyone knows drop-off lines are a pain. They move incredibly slow and test the patience of veteran drivers who’ve experienced the worst of bumper-to-bumper traffic. At times, it may even be tempting to drop your kids off at a spot a little further away from the designated drop off line to save some time. Don’t give in.

Your child’s school has likely created designated drop-off areas with safety cones and assigned staff for a reason. Using them properly, no matter how frustrating, can limit the number of incidents that occur.

And while we know the line can move at a ridiculously slow pace, resist the temptation to scroll through your phone or hop out of your car to talk to other drivers. As they say, keep it moving.

Give bicyclists enough room on the road

Bicyclists are in a vulnerable position on the road. Even if you feel like someone isn’t being the most responsible rider, take the initiative to keep everyone safe by adhering to these best practices:

  • Give bicyclists extra space in case either of you needs to make a sudden move
  • Double-check your mirrors before turning and don’t assume you can move fast enough to get past a bike before they cross your path
  • Study the different cycling hand signals to know when a bicyclist is slowing down, braking, turning right or left

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Back to school safety tips for kids

If your kids walk to school…

Teach them how to use a crosswalk. While younger children may be trained to follow the directions of a crossing guard, there may be instances where they’re forced to cross the street on their own. Walk them through the process of:

  • Pressing the button
  • Waiting for the “walking man” to indicate that they have the right of way
  • Checking to see that cars are slowing to a stop
  • Pointing in the direction they intend to walk

It's also worth reminding your older children that safety trumps convenience. Encourage them to only cross the street at controlled crossings and to avoid jaywalking.<

If your kids get a ride to school…

Remind your kids to always put on their seatbelt upon entering any vehicle. Model this behaviour with seat belt checks whenever driving your kids anywhere. According to Transport Canada, proper seat belt usage reduces the chances of fatalities in a collision by 47% and reduces the chances of serious injury by 52%.

If your kids bike to school…

Enforce a strict helmet policy. The older kids get, the more likely they are to disregard safety precautions, but frequent reminders are useful. Sharing stats may make your reminders more impactful as well. One study found that the chances of dying from brain trauma were three times higher for cyclists who didn’t wear a helmet.

In addition, carefully consider whether your child is old enough to bike to school on their own. Riding around the neighbourhood or going on trips with the family isn’t the same as navigating busy streets at rush hour. Ensure your kids know the proper hand signals and are mature enough to navigate any busy intersections they may need to cross.

Have ongoing conversations about back-to-school safety with your children

While safety may not be top of mind for your child, working to instil good habits in them can help them form safe habits whether they’re walking, cycling, or getting a ride to school. Encourage vigilance and safety-conscious behaviour so that when they’re in a potentially dangerous situation, they know how to make the best choice.

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