This week, students across the country are headed back to school. It’s a busy time for kids as they walk, bike, or bus to school, as well as for parents who want to ensure their kids are safe as BC’s roads become more congested. Here are some tips to keep your kids safe on the commute to class.
Establishing a consistent route to school and home again, if your child is walking or biking without adult supervision, will ensure they don’t get lost and will let you know where to find them in case of an emergency. Walk this route with your child the first few times to identify places they can go if they don’t feel safe (like a friend’s house or neighbourhood centre), while pointing out traffic safety tips and potential hazards along the way. When possible, have your child commute with a friend or a family member or look at joining an existing “Walking School Bus” or “Bicycle Train” – a group of families that walk or wheel together along an established route. You can also start your own with other parents in your neighbourhood to make the commute to class safe and fun.
As the days get shorter and darker, make sure your child is visible to cars and cyclists by staying in well lit areas, wearing bright-coloured clothing or reflective tape, and walking on the side of the sidewalk facing oncoming traffic.
A 2018 study by UBC researchers showed that people who focus on their mobile devices while walking are less steady on their feet and slower than other pedestrians. As well, focusing on a mobile device renders it impossible to pay close attention to their surroundings. To remain safe, teach your children to put all electronic devices away, to be aware of their surroundings, and to always make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street.
Bus safety: Getting on and off the bus is typically the most dangerous part of riding one. Make sure your children give the bus lots of leeway by staying a safe distance away, and only board / exit when it has come to a complete stop. After exiting the bus, have them cross the street at the nearest crosswalk or ensure they stay in sight of the bus driver and other drivers before crossing the road.
Bike safety: Teach your children that bike helmets are mandatory and educate yourself and your children on how to check that the helmet fits correctly. Review bike safety rules regularly, and if their commute requires them to ride on the road, make sure they know how to follow traffic laws.
Car safety: When dropping off, learn the school’s drop-off point and procedure, and always let your child exit the car on the sidewalk side. Don’t be a distracted driver and be sure to abide by speed limits, especially in school zones.
Every month in BC, 30 children are injured in crashes while walking or riding their bikes, according to ICBC. The back-to-school season is an important time to educate your children about getting to and from school safely, so they can spend their time learning, growing, and playing.