September has arrived and we all know that means its time for our kids to head back to school. At this time of year, there is a lot more traffic on the road and we see the resurgence of children walking, riding their bikes, and getting dropped off at school.
There is no better time to remind our kids the importance of making safe and smart choices while travelling to and from school.
SCHOOL BUS SAFETY
Travelling to and from school via school bus is extremely safe. In Ontario, more than 800,000 students travel to school in approximately 16,000 vehicles every day. Injuries are rare and generally happen outside the school bus as students are boarding and leaving the bus or crossing the street.
Ontario regulations require that all individuals driving school buses be specially trained, licensed drivers with good driving records. Also, all Ontario school buses must meet the safety standards established by Transport Canada and the province.
As we have previously blogged, all school buses require occupant protection features. These buses have unique roof strength, body joint strength, and compartmentalization requirements. When a school bus is hit from the front or the rear, the child’s body slides forward and hits the seat back in a manner so as to distribute the force of the impact over the entire upper body (without a seat belt).
Safety Tips for Drivers When Encountering School Buses
When driving on a road without a median, all drivers in both directions must stop for a stopped school bus with its upper red lights flashing. If you are approaching the school bus from the front, stop your vehicle at a safe distance to allow children to cross the road in front of the bus. Do not begin driving until the red lights have stopped flashing or the school bus begins to move.
If you are driving on a road with a median, only drivers travelling in the same direction as the school bus must stop when the upper red lights are flashing. Drivers travelling in the opposite direction are not required to stop.
Drivers can be charged if they pass a stopped school bus with its upper red lights flashing. If this is a first offence, a driver can be charged between $400 to $2,000 and six demerit points. For each additional offence, a driver can be charged between $1,000 and $4,000, six demerit points and possible jail time up to six months.
Safety Tips for Children Riding a School Bus
Children who ride a school bus to and from school are reminded to arrive early and always wait in a safe place, well back from the edge of the roadway. Children should only cross the road in front of the bus, not behind it, and wait for the driver to signal that it is safe to cross. It is not safe to run across the street.
While on the bus, children should sit facing forward and always follow the bus driver’s instructions. Children should not distract their bus driver and should avoid yelling, pushing, throwing things, eating, or drinking while riding the school bus.
CHILDREN WALKING TO SCHOOL
If your child will be walking to school, here are a few safety tips to review with them prior to the first day of school.
- Build familiarity with the route to school: Go over a safe route to school and have your children practice walking the route before school begins. Make special note of crosswalks, stop signs, and potential traffic hazards;
- Safety in numbers: Have your child walk to school with a sibling, friend, or neighbour;
- Look all ways: Remind your child to remain on the curb or sidewalk and look left, right, in front, and behind before crossing the street;
- Obey all traffic lights: Remind your child to never cross the street on a yellow or red light;
- Hands-free is best: It is important that your child remain hands-free while walking to and from school to avoid distractions from cell phones and gaming devices. If your child is walking with their head down, they cannot see what is in front of them. Also earphones prevent your child from hearing sirens or car horns; and
- Always have an emergency plan in place: Make sure your child knows what to do and who to contact if he/she gets lost or faces an emergency while traveling to or from school. Ensure that your child has memorized a parent’s cell phone number and write down important numbers on the inside of their backpacks.
CYCLING TO SCHOOL
Cycling is a great way for your child to travel to and from school as it incorporates daily exercise into their lives. However, riding a bike safely to school is of the utmost importance and children should be reminded about correct cycling practices and safety skills.
Under Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act, a bicycle is a “vehicle”, just like a car or truck. Cyclists must obey all traffic laws and have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers.
Parents should remind their children to ride in a single file, complete a shoulder check for vehicles, know how to use hand signals, and watch for cars backing out of driveways and/or pulling onto roads.
By law, every cyclist under the age of 16 must wear an approved helmet. In fact, according to the Highway Traffic Act, it is a parent or guardian’s duty not to authorize or permit a person to ride a bicycle under the age of sixteen unless he/she is wearing a bicycle helmet.
It is also required by law that your bicycle be equipped with the following features:
- A bell or horn in good working order;
- At least one braking system on the rear wheel capable of skidding that wheel on dry, level pavement;
- A white front light (visible from a distance of at least 150 metres);
- A red rear light or red rear reflector;
- Two strips of white reflective tape on front forks (each strip to be 125mm by 25mm);
- Two strips of red reflective tape on rear forks.
At Jasmine Daya & Co., we specialize in serious personal injury claims, and have successfully represented severely injured minor plaintiffs on many occasions. If your child has suffered an injury while travelling to or from school through no fault of their own, please contact the experienced personal injury lawyers at our firm today either online or at 416-967-9100. We offer free consultations for all new clients.