School zones are back in effect this week, and the Ridge Meadows RCMP is telling motorists to slow down, and watch your speed in school zones.
BCAA says COVID-19 means a different-looking back to school this year, with new protocols, rules and schedules. Some changes like staggered bell times and new entry procedures will mean school zone traffic looks different too. BCAA reminds drivers of the importance of driving safely in school zones and cautions them to expect the unexpected this year.
“Back to school is stressful enough at the best of times and these aren’t the best of times,” said Shawn Pettipas, BCAA’s director of community engagement. He adds that while road safety may not be top of parents’ minds, he strongly encourages parents to be extra careful as they get behind the wheel and head into the school zone.
“Time and time again we see parents are stressed and rushing, and rushing leads to unsafe driving,” Pettipas says.
BCAA research over the years has shown a wide range of unsafe driving behaviours witnessed during the first few weeks back to school. Last year, 80 per cent of British Columbian parents said speeding in school zones was an issue, while 73 per cent reported drivers not stopping at crosswalks and 56 per cent saw at least one near miss involving a child almost being hit by a car.
This year, while staggered bells could mean less congestion, they could also cause a longer ‘peak’ time, and Pettipas expects it won’t mean less unsafe driving. If anything, there may be more road safety issues as parents navigate all the changes and anxiety that come with returning to school in the COVID-era.
Pettipas advises parents to build in extra time to prevent rushing, don’t double park or stop on crosswalks, which can block pedestrians’ visibility, and always avoid stopping on the opposite side of the street or in moving traffic, which would require children to cross through traffic.
Consider walking or cycling with your child, or park and walk the last block or two. This may be a practical option for parents working from home.