Drivers should be extra vigilant with kids heading back to school

Safety reminders for motorists for the new school year beginning September 5

Hundreds of school buses will be back on the roads for the first day of school, so give yourself extra time when driving to work (photo: Ontario School Bus Association)
Hundreds of school buses will be back on the roads for the first day of school on September 6, so give yourself extra time when driving to work (photo: Ontario School Bus Association)

With thousands of children and youth across The Kawarthas returning to school on Tuesday, September 5th, it’s once again time to remind drivers to help keep everyone safe by adjusting their driving habits.

Give yourself extra time when driving to work on Tuesday morning and be especially vigilant in school zones, when approaching school crossings, and around school buses.

The following safety reminders are important during the entire school year, but especially on the first day of school when children are excited, parents may be distracted, and drivers have become accustomed to reduced levels of traffic over the summer.

School zones

  • Look for school zone signs and reduce your speed in school zones.
  • Watch for children in school zones and be prepared to stop at all times.
  • Be especially careful when driving near school drop-off and pick-up zones.
  • If you’re a parent dropping or picking up your children, always follow the rules provided by your school with respect to zones.

School crossings

  • Look for school crossing signs and reduce speed when approaching a school crossing.
  • Stop when a stop paddle is held up by a crossing guard, and don’t proceed until the guard has left the crossing.
  • Even when the guard has left the crossing, keep an eye out for stragglers before proceeding.
  • In the City of Kawartha Lakes, school crossing guards use a three-whistle system: the guard blows the first whistle before entering the crosswalk alone to stop traffic; the guard blows the second whistle to advise pedestrians they can safely cross; and the guard blows the third whistle when the crossing is clear of pedestrians and vehicular traffic can resume.

School buses

  • Never pass a stopped school bus that has its upper red lights flashing. This applies regardless of the direction you are driving (the only exception is on a highway separated by a median, in which case traffic coming from the opposite direction is not required to stop).
  • Once all passengers have boarded, the bus’s stop arm will fold away. Do not start driving again until the red lights have stopped flashing and the bus begins to move.
  • Vehicle owners can be charged if their vehicle illegally passes a stopped school bus. For the first offence, fines range from $400 to $2,000 and six demerit points. Fines for each subsequent offence range from $1,000 to $4,000, six demerit points, and possible jail time up to six months.
  • You can report a vehicle that doesn’t stop properly for a school bus to police immediately by calling 9-1-1.

In general, watch for children when driving near schools and be ready to stop at all times. If you see children waiting to cross the road, whether at a school crossing or not, try to make eye contact with them.

Also, don’t text and drive. Put your electronic devices away while driving and give your full attention to the safe operation of your vehicle. It’s against the law in Ontario to hold any electronic device in your hand while driving, whether you’re on the road, at a traffic stop, or at a pedestrian crossing.

Depending on the kind of licence you have and how long you’ve been a driver, penalties range from a $490 to a $1000 fine and three demerit points or a suspension of your licence. If you must use your handheld device, pull off the road to a safe area to do so.

Finally: if you’re a cyclist, remember that the rules of the road apply to you too.

For more information on school bus safety, please visit the Ministry of Transportation’s website.