Over the next few weeks, many of Alberta’s students will be returning to classes across the province to start the new school year. The Morinville RCMP would like to remind students, parents and drivers of a few safety tips which will make the return to school a safe one for everyone.
· Drivers should familiarize themselves with the specific times during the school day when the school zones in their area are in effect and adhere to the posted speed limits.
· Drivers should remember to slow down in school zones and be particularly alert for students during school hours, especially when dropping off and picking up children from school.
· School buses will once again be on the roads making frequent stops to pick up and drop off students. Alternating flashing amber lights indicate that a school bus is slowing down.
· When a school bus activates its alternately flashing red lights, it is signaling that it is going to stop. Drivers must stop too. It is illegal to pass a stopped school bus as long as its red lights remain activated.
· Drivers should watch for students at crosswalks and obey the signals of crossing guards and traffic control devices.
· Be aware that neighborhood streets near schools and school zones will experience an increase in both vehicular and pedestrian traffic. Be careful when driving in these areas and “expect the unexpected.”
· Driver distraction accounts for 20% to 30% of all collisions. Put away electronic devices, beverages and food while driving. Avoid distracted driving and focus on the road and traffic.
· Be on the lookout for children and students walking to school as you pull out or back out of your garage and driveway.
· If waiting for a school bus, stand in an area which is safe, well-lit and away from the road.
· Don’t walk between school buses or parked cars as drivers may not see you.
· Remember, if you cannot see the driver of a vehicle, chances are that the driver cannot see you.
· If walking to school, walk on the side walk and cross roads and streets at marked crosswalks and controlled intersections.
· If there are not any sidewalks, walk on the left-hand side of the road, facing oncoming traffic and staying as far away from traffic as possible.
· Stay alert when crossing the street and watch for traffic, even if you have the right of way.
· In the dim early morning hours or on dark evenings, wear brightly-coloured clothing, a reflective arm band or clothing with reflective strips which will help you to be seen by motorists.
· Be aware that parked vehicles may pull away from the curb on the street or out of a stall in a parking lot. The drivers of these vehicles may not see you if you walk between vehicles or through a parking lot.
· If riding a skateboard, scooter or roller-blading to school, ensure that you are wearing your safety gear. In Alberta, youth under the age of 18 years, must wear a helmet when riding a bicycle at all times.
· Don’t be a distracted pedestrian. Listening to loud music on headphones or texting on a smartphone while walking may make you less aware of the traffic dangers around you.
· Show your child a safe route by which to walk to and from school. Make sure they know how to use safely a crosswalk and obey all traffic control devices and crossing guards.
· Discourage your child from taking shortcuts through parking lots or jaywalking to and from school.
· If waiting for a school bus, ensure your child is aware of the traffic hazards which may be present near the bus stop. Show them a safe place where they may wait to catch the bus.
· Instruct your child never to run after a school bus in an effort to catch it as neither the bus driver nor other motorists may see them in the road.
· Rain, snow, fog and darkness may obscure the vision of motorists, making pedestrians difficult to see. Your child should know that even though they may see an approaching vehicle, environmental conditions may impair the motorist’s ability to see them. Teach them to make eye contact with driver before crossing the street.
· As a pedestrian, do not always assume that you have the right of way.
· If you decide to meet your child at the bus stop after school, wait at the bus stop itself: not across the street from it. Children may forget traffic safety rules in their excitement to see you after their school day and dash across the street.
By remembering these few simple traffic safety tips, students, parents and drivers can help one another enjoy a safe school year. Each person has a part to play to ensure that all who use the roads in Alberta, do so in a manner which is safe for all Albertans.
Cpl. B.D. Tarzwell,