By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on September 5, 2018.
Another school term has begun, and that means summer vacation is over – for motorists as well as students.
Just as it’s time for students to turn their focus back to their studies, it’s also time for drivers to turn their attention back to school zone safety.
As insurancehotline.com points out, school zones are busy places, with parents as well as school buses dropping children off at school or picking them up after school. Children are milling about, talking or playing with friends, and perhaps not always paying attention to traffic.
“There’s a lot to look for as a driver,” says the website.
But if drivers are inattentive while driving through school zones, it’s a recipe for potential trouble – even tragedy.
Saferoads.com notes that from 2012 to 2016, an average of 230 children in Alberta were injured each year as either pedestrians or cyclists.
“Drivers play a key role in back-to-school safety,” says the website. “Be alert and extra cautious in and around school zones and playgrounds as well as near school buses.”
That should go without saying, but as we all know, sometimes drivers are distracted, busy with their digital devices instead of devoting full attention to the road.
It’s not a secret that children can be unpredictable. That’s why drivers must “expect the unexpected,” to quote Walter Matthau’s Mr. Wilson character in the 1993 film “Dennis the Menace.” Safety organizations also advise slowing down, which is the law in school zones anyway.
Insurancehotline.com recommends drivers avoid using hands-free devices when travelling through school zones because even the act of carrying on a conversation prevents a driver from being fully focused on driving.
The website also suggests: “Don’t pass other cars in a school zone,” “Be patient” and “Be ready to stop at all times.”
Drivers also need to be mindful around school buses. Saferoads.com says nearly 50 per cent of drivers involved in collisions with school buses committed an error, with the most common mistake that of following too closely.
Motorists are also reminded that they must stop for a school bus if it is displaying flashing red lights and an extended stop arm.
Parents and teachers work to teach children about traffic safety and to watch out for vehicles, but sometimes, kids being kids, they forget or are careless. It’s up to drivers to be the extra line of defence needed to keep children safe when they’re going to or coming from school.
In Lethbridge, there’s an extra school zone to watch for this fall with the opening of the new Senator Joyce Fairbairn Middle School on the westside. Drivers in that area might have to adjust their driving habits accordingly.
In fact, drivers throughout the city should adjust their driving habits now that school has resumed. Perhaps that will require allowing a little more time for the daily commute if it takes them through school areas. It’s all for a good cause – the safety of our children.
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