There are a few tips that can help things run smoothly and keep students safe when preparing for back to school and throughout the school year.
Tips for parents and guardians
- Teach your child basic traffic safety rules
- never dart out between parked cars
- where possible, cross at marked crosswalks supervised by a School Crossing Guard
- when crossing the street, look left, then right and left again to make sure no cars are coming before you cross the street
- when crossing the street, always walk, never run
- Make sure your child’s walk to school is a safe route, and that your child is familiar with it
- walk with them until they know the route and can do it safely
- carefully consider whether your child is ready to walk to school without adult supervision
- if your child is ready to walk to school without adult supervision, encourage them to walk with a “buddy”
- reinforce with your child the importance of sticking to their regular route
- Have your child memorize your contact number and their address
- Update your list of emergency contacts and give a current copy to your child’s school and any after-school programs
- Back to school season is always a good time to remind your children about stranger danger
- teach your children to never accept rides or gifts from people they do not know
- make sure your children know who would pick them up in case of an emergency or if you aren’t able to
- teach your kids which trustworthy adults (such as grandparents, teachers, school resource officers, a neighbor you know and trust) they can also turn to when they need help
- teach your children what to do if a stranger tries to lure them away – SAY NO, GET AWAY, AND TELL SOMEONE YOU TRUST
- If you’re dropping off or picking up kids at school, it’s important that you obey traffic signs and signals and other rules of the road
- don’t park in a no-parking zone – this will put you, your children, other kids as well as other drivers and their passengers at risk
- make sure you’re not blocking a crosswalk
- stop only when it’s safe and legal to do so and ensure you’re not obstructing traffic
- Teach your child to practice school bus safety
- arrive at the bus stop five minutes early
- line up for the school bus in single file at least five steps back from the road
- wait until the bus has come to a complete stop and the doors are open before moving forward
- remain seated at all times while on the bus and refrain from distracting conduct, such as throwing things or yelling
- when exiting the bus, walk, don’t run
- always cross in front of the school bus but only after establishing eye contact with the school bus driver
Tips for motorists
- Reduced speed in school zones
- motorists are reminded that the speed limit in school zones is 30 km/h in areas where the approaching limit is 50 km/h, when children are present. Where the approaching speed limit is higher than 50 km/h, drivers are required to reduce speed to a maximum of 50 km/h when children are present
- by reducing your speed you’ll have more time to react to the unexpected and avoid a dangerous incident
- given that children are sometimes distracted and may forget to watch for cars, slower is safer. Follow the new speed when driving in a school zone
- Use extra caution around crosswalks
- be mindful at crosswalks and keep a watchful eye out for students crossing the street. Stay alert as children may dart out from between parked vehicles
- obey crosswalk guards and stop a minimum of 5m from crosswalks when crossing guards have displayed their stop signs
- pedestrians should cross the street at marked crosswalks where possible and be sure to make eye contact with the driver before stepping out into the roadway. Jaywalking is not just irresponsible and unsafe; it could mean a fine for the pedestrian
- Passing a school bus
- passing school buses in either direction when the red lights are flashing, regardless of the number of traffic lanes, not only puts people in danger, but is illegal and carries substantial fines
- you can pass with caution when a bus displays flashing amber lights
Back to School Safety and Planning for Emergencies
Now is a good time to review back-to-school safety with your children and check school safety policies. Here are six tips for a safe return to school:
- Review your family emergency plan and check emergency kit supplies
Sit down with your children to talk about different kinds of emergencies and review your family emergency plan. Talk about what to do and where you will meet if you are not together when an emergency takes place. Involve your children in preparing an emergency kit or checking your emergency supplies to make sure you have key items on hand and check expiry dates on batteries and food. Use this list as your guide.
- Be aware of school emergency procedures
Make sure you read information from the school about their plan for emergencies, emergency procedures and alternate locations should an emergency take place. Also be sure to check that the school has current emergency contact information for your children, including work, mobile and home telephone numbers.
- Watch for children walking, cycling and coming off school buses
Children are small and easily distracted, and for drivers, this can create dangerous situations on the roads. Be vigilant and alert behind the wheel, especially in school zones. You never know when a small child might step out from between parked cars or off a sidewalk. And parents, take time to remind your children about crossing the street safely, wearing a helmet while cycling, and staying safe on buses.
- Review school bus safety
Make sure children don’t arrive too early at the bus stop where they can wander or get distracted. Make sure children wait well away from the road and stay back until the school bus makes a full stop and the doors open. Explain that children must walk at least three metres (10 feet) away when crossing in front of the bus so the driver can see them. When driving your car near a school bus please note that extra caution is needed. On an undivided road, it is illegal to pass a school bus when the signal lights are flashing. Children are often crossing the road at that time. Drivers must proceed with caution once the signal lights have stopped flashing.
Children should follow the bus driver’s instructions, and here are some general rules for when on the bus:
- Take your seat as quickly as possible and sit properly, facing forward at all times.
- Keep your head, arms and everything inside the bus. Don’t throw anything out the windows or around in the bus.
- Talk quietly. The driver must concentrate to drive the bus safely.
- No fighting, shouting or playing in or around the bus.
- Obey crossing guards
A crossing guard is there to keep children safe. If you come up to a set of lights while driving, and the light turns green, but the crossing guard still says stop, follow his/her direction and not the traffic light. There might be a child still crossing the street that you can’t see.
- Be allergy aware and pack safe school lunches
When packing lunches for your school-aged children, make sure you’re being allergy aware. And if your kids pack their own lunches, help them be allergy aware, too. The main allergens to watch for — because they’re responsible for the majority of reactions in Canada — are peanuts, tree nuts, sesame, soy, seafood, fish, wheat, eggs, milk and sulphites. Reactions range from mild skin irritations to loss of consciousness, and in the worst cases can be fatal. Check out Health Canada’s tips for packing safe lunches.