Back to school signals a number of things, a fresh start, the transition to autumn, a return to learning, catching up with friends and acquaintances.
And following a summer of frolicking and relaxation, it is kind of a return to reality for students and parents alike.
Perhaps most significantly, that reality includes major safety concerns, particularly in the morning before school and the afternoon after school.
During those hours there is much more activity in school zones. School buses dropping off and picking up, private vehicles doing the same and increased bicycle and pedestrian activity.
Motorists must be aware of all of this.
Observing speed limits in school zones is of utmost importance. A study in Toronto showed over a four-year period zero people died in 30km/hr zones while 12 were killed in 40km/hr zones and 44 lost their lives in 50km/hr zones.
Survivably rapidly decreases with speed in vehicle-pedestrian collisions.
Lower speeds also drastically reduce the likelihood of those collisions as drivers have more time to react. And react they must, because pedestrians and cyclists, particularly children, don’t always follow the rules either.
That brings up, of course, mutual responsibility. Parents should ensure their children know and practice the rules. Wearing helmets, stopping at stop signs and crosswalks and signalling turns and obeying all the rules of the road, go a long way to preventing unnecessary injury or death.
Safety around school buses is also paramount.
Everybody knows, or at least should, that it is illegal to pass a school bus with its red lights flashing in any direction. Yet according to Drive BC, police issued 287 tickets for failing to stop for a school bus in 2021.
A ticket will cost a driver $368 and three penalty points, but much more importantly avoiding a fine could very well save a person a lifetime of anguish.
Back to school is an exciting time.
It is everybody’s responsibility to also ensure it’s a safe time.