It’s been a while since students have been making their way to school in the morning and home again in the afternoon. Do you remember how to drive safely in School Zones – or even what a School Zone looks like? Nearly a quarter of drivers report seeing close calls in school zones, so take care and make sure you’re following all recommendations to keep pedestrians, cyclists and all road users safe!

School Zone Safety Rules

Observe all speed limits.

School zones in Ottawa are clearly marked with highly visible yellow signs. Often, signage will also include the speed limit, which will be reduced to 30 to 40 km/h. Obey the marked speed limit or respect the school zone maximum of 40 km/h if unmarked; remember that speeding fines and demerits in school zones are increased and going slowly means a safer environment for all.

School Zone Sign

Be alert and be ready to stop.

Young children are still learning the rules of the road and sometimes will act in unexpected ways. Always keep a careful watch for children emerging from between parked cars, or dashing into the road unexpectedly. Be prepared to stop at all times.

Also, make extra sure you aren’t distracted when driving in a school zone. Put your phone away, turn down the radio, and ask passengers to be respectful.

Avoid double parking and U-turns.

If you need to drop off your child, be sure to keep the school zone area safe for other children. Don’t double park, which can reduce visibility for other drivers and create hazardous crossing situations for students. And don’t U-turn in a school zone, which is dangerous and unexpected behaviour that children can’t anticipate; instead, drive safely around the block to get back on your path.

Consider parking a block away.

An even better idea for parents dropping off children is to park a block away and walk into the school zone area (OSTA has a helpful Walk-A-Block Map available on their website). This reduces traffic in the school safety zone and means one fewer car for students to avoid. Be sure to park legally and don’t create difficulty for other cars passing through.

Working with Crossing Guards

A school crossing is any crossing, either at a light, stop sign, or specially marked path, that has a crossing guard present. 

All cars and bicycles must come to a complete stop at any school crossing at least 5 metres before the crossing when a crossing guard is in the crosswalk and showing their STOP sign.

By law, all cars must wait until the crosswalk is entirely clear of all pedestrians – including the crossing guard – before proceeding. According to Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act, Section 176, creeping into an intersection or entering the crossing with your vehicle before all pedestrians are safely on the sidewalk is punishable by a fine of up to $500.

As a driver, try to make eye contact with any children who are waiting to cross and the crossing guard to acknowledge that you have seen them, respect them, and will wait patiently for the way to clear before proceeding.

School Bus Safety Considerations

Always be patient with school buses. Give them plenty of room and respect them when stopped for the safety of all. Rules to keep in mind include:

  • When a bus is stopped on a road without a median, drivers coming from both directions must come to a complete stop until the bus lights stop flashing and the bus begins to move.
  • Going around a stopped bus or failing to come to a stop yourself is illegal.
  • Drivers approaching a stopped bus from behind should leave at least 20 metres between the bus and their vehicle.
  • Drivers approaching a stopped bus from the front should leave enough room for students to cross the road between the bus and their vehicle.
  • When a bus is stopped on a road with a median, oncoming traffic is not required to stop.

Keep school zone safety top of mind and obey all rules and safety suggestions for a safer community for all. Keep our kids safe and happy back to school season!

Earn your Road SMARTS

If you would like to get more involved in road safety, we invite you to take 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 can be reduced. For more information and to take the pledge for free, visit