Car congestion in school zones is tricky. Many parents are worried about their child’s safety in the crowded drop-off zone, so they drive them to school; but that adds more cars and even more congestion, which means more danger for young pedestrians and cyclists. Help keep school zones safe by reading out school drop off safety tips.
However you’re getting your kids to school – or even if you just need to pass by a school zone on your way to work – keep calm, have patience, and always put the safety of children at the top of your list.
Know the process
Start by asking your school administration for guidance on drop off and pick up. (Who else remembers the classic line from the movie Mr. Mom: “South to drop off, north to pick up”?) If you’re starting at a new school, pay a visit before your first day to understand how the school zone works for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.
Line ups to enter drop-off or pick-up areas can be long, especially in times of bad weather or when school buses are cancelled. Be prepared to wait your turn patiently. If you can, leave extra time in your morning routine so there isn’t any temptation to bypass the school safe zone and park elsewhere.
Follow school zone speed limits
School zones in Ottawa typically have limits of between 30 and 40 km/h, and many are monitored with speed cameras. Always stay at or below the limits and never speed through a school zone.
Drop off can be a busy time, with kids chatting, music playing, and everyone juggling homework and lunches. However, it’s more important than ever to keep your focus on the road, as unpredictable young pedestrians and anxious drivers add to the chaos. Remember to ignore your phone, keep things as quiet as possible in the car, and wait to give your kids those last-minute reminders until you are safely stopped.
Obey Crossing Guards
As you approach school zone crossing areas, keep a sharp eye out for Crossing Guards entering the road and raising their stop signs. Drivers that do not notice or respect a Crossing Guard is a common problem in school zones. Remember to let all people, including the guard, clear the roadway completely before driving through.
Park and walk a block
If you can, help reduce congestion in your school zone by parking a block or two away from the school and walking the rest of the way. The Ottawa Student Transportation Authority offers handy Walk-A-Block maps. Always obey road signs. No parking, no stopping, and school bus zone signs all mean you cannot leave your car in that area. School Crossing signs also mean no cars can stop or park in the zone marked by the signs, to maintain visibility for students crossing the road in that area.
Lastly, consider encouraging your kids to get to school without a car ride. Walking on their own if they are older than age 10 or joining a walking school bus if they are younger are both great ways to add a little fitness to their day and teach them essential road safety rules. In times of warmer weather, bike riding with friends and family can be fun too!
School Zones are busy and often unpredictable, but taking time to be considerate, pay attention, and proceed slowly means we can all navigate them safely and make school zones safe zones for all students.
Earn your RoadSMARTS
Learn more about road safety by taking the #RoadSMARTS pledge. By taking the Road SMARTS Pledge, you Support Making All Road Travel Safe, which can help improve road safety for everyone. When road behaviours change, accidents are reduced. For more information and to take the pledge for free, visit https://www.ottawasafetycouncil.ca/road-smarts.