Get Your Kids Back-to-School Safely!

by John McKiggan

It’s that time again! Tomorrow is the first day of school and lots of eager (or not so eager) kids will be heading back to school.

As an injury lawyer in Nova Scotia, I have dealt with countless tragic cases where children have been injured, many of them in and around schools. Here are a few tips for parents to make sure the first day back (and every other day during the school year) is a safe one.

Whichever method your children use to get to school there are a number of safety considerations to remember.

Pedestrian Rules

Take a walk to school with your children before school starts. Teach your children to use the sidewalks and only cross at marked intersections, preferably where there is a crossing guard.

Remind your kids that the use of a cellphone or wearing of headphones while walking substantially increases their risk of being struck by a vehicle.

Warn your kids against walking through parking lots. Walking between parked cars can be very dangerous, particularly when young children are completely hidden by the heights of the cars.

Cycling Safety

Last year Nova Scotia introduced legislation with new rules to deal with cycling safety: New Cycling Safety Rules in Effect Today Designed to Reduce Nova Scotia Bicycle Accidents.

Learn the rules and teach them to your children the rules of the road. If your kids are cycling to school – make sure they are wearing helmets. Remember, helmets are less effective if they are worn over a hat or a bandana!

Make sure the helmet is fitted properly: Bicycle Helmets Save Lives – Prevent Brain Injury.

School Bus Etiquette

Remind your kids of the rules on the bus. Most importantly, they should stay seated at all times when the bus is in motion. This year the Halifax School Board will finally install seatbelts in all school buses: Regional School Board to Comply With Legislation to Make Children Safer on School Buses

Teach your kids to respect the bus driver; a distracted driver could be dangerous to everyone.

Slow Down!

Starting September 1 the speed limit in school zones has dropped from 50km/hr to 30 km/hr when children are present. This is something I have been advocating for the past four years: Slow Down and Save a Childs Life!

I am pleased to see that the province has taken steps to enact this sensible safety measure. But I would urge people to actually take a drive through your neighbourhood and slow down to 30 km so you get an idea how fast (or how slow) you should be driving when children are around. I was surprised how sloooow it felt.

Watch Out Behind (and in Front) You

With parents dropping children off at school and the fact that many schools do not have designated drop of lanes, traffic congestion can be a real problem.

Every car has blind zones behind (and in front) of the vehicle. With excited little people running around it is very easy for a tragic accident if a child inadvertently walks in front of or behind a car being driven by an inattentive parent: Blind Spots a Big Danger for Young Children: Child Injury Prevention

Don’t Drive Distracted

Research from the Canadian Auto Association indicates that 80% of collisions and 65% of near crashes have some form of driver distraction as a contributing factor.

Safe Kids Canada warns that children under the age of 9 do NOT have the ability to:

(1) Decide on and use a safe crossing route;

(2) Realistically assess a vehicle’s speed, and ;

(3) Judge safe gaps in traffic.

While you should never drive distracted, you should take particular care to pay attention when you are in a school zone.

Distracted Driving is a major cause of injury or death on our highways and is one of the reasons I volunteer with EndDD.org.

Remember, even if you don’t have kids you should be wary of the school-induced exodus and pay increased attention on the roads!

More Resources

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) offers some great tips for transporting your children to school safely.

They also provide a list of 10 informative safety tips for the school bus.

Safe Kids Canada addresses the risk of cellphone use while walking.

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