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On The Road

Road Safety 101: Suburban Roads

Suburban roads may offer some extra space, but they come with their own set of obstacles. See how you can stay safe when driving in suburban neighbourhoods.

by Alex Kelly

Welcome back to our series, “Road Safety 101,” a comprehensive look at Canada’s different neighbourhood roads: rural, suburban, and urban. We highlight the differences between routes, and give you tips on how to navigate all types of streets. Last time, we explored rural roads and the best ways to stay safe in the countryside. In this article, we’ll examine the risks of suburban roads, and how to be safe behind the wheel.

Suburban roads: what’s the issue?

The suburbs are some of Canada’s fastest-growing communities and are characterized by lower density neighbourhoods, where most homes are detached or semi-detached. Suburbs are also classified by their distance outside an urban core, and often are home to a number of commuters.

Due to the spread-out nature of suburbs, there is a stronger reliance on personal vehicles for activities related to daily life. For commuters, linking into the downtown core may require a number of different transit options, such as walking, cycling, rideshare, as well as personal vehicles, in order to connect to a mainline transit option — like a train or bus. These first mile/last mile solutions contribute to a diverse road user population, as well as increased risk potential.

The sprawl of suburbs allows for wider roadways, which contributes to higher vehicle speeds, while still hosting a mix of road users: drivers, cyclists, pedestrians. Commuters may be driving mainly in the dark morning and evening hours, and complacent on home turf, especially after longer commutes. This inattention poses a risk for children playing in neighbourhoods, as well as other pedestrians.

Staying safe

Safe play

Have a conversation with your kids about safe play in the neighbourhood. Staying out of roadways and between parked cars is always a good idea, especially as children are not as visible as larger adults. Increasingly, neighbourhoods are placing well-intended lawn signs reminding drivers that “Kids Play Here.” However, studies show that these signs are largely ineffective, providing a false sense of security. Drivers have been found to incorrectly assume that neighbourhoods without signage don’t contain children at play. The better solution is to educate your children where and when the safest play should occur.

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Engage city council

There are proven ways to increase road safety in suburban neighbourhoods, but you will need to partner with your municipality to create change. Decreasing posted speed limits, installing speed bumps, and changing street configurations all have shown to increase safety in communities.

Stay focused

Distraction is never a good idea, but drivers tend to mentally drive on autopilot, especially if they are tired or distracted from the commute home. Given the car-centric focus in the suburbs, parking lots and streets can be large and sprawling — while you may not be on a true roadway, the road still demands your full attention and awareness to avoid any collisions with cars or pedestrians.

Look at your landscaping

Do you have elements blocking drivers’ visual path? Often, shrubs, trees, garbage bins, and planters may obstruct views of driveways. It is important to keep these clear so that other drivers can see cars pulling out, children playing, or pedestrians about to cross the street. While it may look nice, these features can compromise safety for you and your neighbours.

Suburbs are growing fast, and allow for a little more space than the downtown core. With that space comes the need for more vehicles on the road — so make sure you’re doing your part to keep your suburban neighbourhood safe!

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