Children everywhere are sulking and dragging their heels? Check.
Parents are trying to hide their excitement and not smile too much? Check.
A mountain of pencil crayons and binders fell on you last time you went to a department store? Check.
It must be back to school time! Which, aside from deep discounts on granola bars and Lunchables, means you’re going to be sharing your morning commute with kids, buses, and crossing guards again. Yay.
If you’ve grown accustomed to a breezy morning drive these past few months, this can be a surprising transition. Better make sure to brush up on some of the pertinent road rules to make sure you stay safe (and on the right side of the law) this back to school season.
Slow down near school zones
Yes, yes, you should always be obeying the speed limit as it is, but pay extra attention when you enter a school zone. This applies to all hours of the day, not just the morning rush or when school gets out. Distracted children may be toddling in late, on their lunch, playing during recess, out and about for an activity.
You can’t rely on children to be paying attention or obeying the rules of the road perfectly, so it’s on you as the responsible motorist to look out for their safety. Slow down in school zones as the law requires, but also pay careful attention to areas near schools with heavy pedestrian traffic. It’s better to slow down for a few minutes and be safe than risk hurting a child and having that on your conscious and record for the rest of your life.
Respect the crossing guard
It’s the crossing guards job to make sure everyone gets where they’re going safely and efficiently, so help them do it right. Pay attention, obey directions, and don’t stress out if you have to wait through a green light due to some less than speedy grade school footwork.
Never assume you know better than a crossing guard or assume that you’re safe to go because it looks clear to you. It’s entirely possible that they know something you don’t, or can see something you can’t from their vantage point. Wait for the all-clear before proceeding.
Driving near school buses
Give school buses room to breathe on the road. Not only is it the polite thing to do (you’d want motorists to be extra cautious near a bus carrying your child after all) but it will help you avoid costly fines and tickets.
When a bus stops to pick up or drop off kids, MTO regulations state that you need to be behind the bus by a full 20 meters. When a bus deploys its stop sign and flashing lights, you can’t pass under any circumstance until the bus moves, or the overhead lights stop flashing. This includes instances where a meridian on the road would logically prevent children from crossing. While oncoming motorists can pass freely in that instance, it’s still a no-go for cars behind the bus on the same side of the meridian.
Drivers who don’t stop for a school bus or try to sneak around one can expect some hefty (and well deserved) penalties. First time offenders can be fined anywhere between $400 and $2000 with a whopping 6 demerit points off your license (putting you in danger of facing a formal interview to avoid having your license suspended even if you haven’t lost any other points). Anyone silly enough to be caught blowing past a stopped school bus a second time can be charged up to $4000 and even face jail time. So mind those blinking lights.
Yes, this goes for those surly teens at the local high school too
You may assume that these rules are more relaxed when dealing with older teenaged kids, but you’d be wrong. Little kids walking along like ducklings in a line, dutifully obeying the crossing guard, and waiting their turn are fairly predictable. High school kids trying to make it back from the pizza place for lunch before the bell rings, or trying to sneak out to cut a class, are not so predictable. If anything, you’re actually more at risk of having a teenager dart out on the road from the sidewalk than an elementary schooler, so drive appropriately when near a high school.
Keep these guidelines in mind and you’ll be more than ready for back to school season this September. Remember, it’s always better to be safe and slow than to gamble with a child’s life and get where you’re going a few minutes faster.