Road safety is important for kids

Children across the country are gearing up to go back to school within the next couple of weeks. And whether your child rides on the school bus, takes a bike to school, walks to school, or gets dropped off, it's never too early to teach them how to stay safe on the road.

It's also important that we, as drivers, keep in mind that it is back to school season - meaning that the volume of cars and children in school zones will be high during certain periods of the day. Children can be the least predictable as pedestrians or cyclists, and even more so, fresh out of summer vacation.

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According to statistics from ICBC, five pedestrians aged five to 18 die every year in British Columbia, and another 250 are injured in crashes involving vehicles. Every year, one young cyclist dies in B.C. and 120 are injured in crashes involving vehicles.

As a rule of thumb, reduce your speed in residential areas. For those who need a refresher, the speed limit in school zones is 30 kilometres an hour, between the hours of 8 in the morning to 5 in the evening.

Never overtake another vehicle while in a school zone, avoid any three-point turns or U-turns, and obey crossing guards. Some school zones also have flashers - be prepared to stop and don't block the crosswalk when making a right turn.

Give a greater follow distance when you're behind a school bus so that if the bus' yellow lights start flashing, you'll have more time to stop. Stop completely when you see a bus displaying flashing red lights or extending its stop arm. Children are often not paying attention when disembarking, so be extra cautious.

If you're a parent who drops your child off at school, there are several important safety tips to keep in mind. Finding an unloading area can be tough in a crowded school zone, but remember to never double-park. Double-parking blocks visibility for not only other vehicles, but pedestrians as well.

Keep children out of harm's way by loading and unloading them from the passenger seat's side. Don't encourage mid-block crossing if you have to unload from across the street.

Remember to go through safety rules with children and teens who travel to school by themselves before sending them off to school this fall.

Unplug earphones and stay alert and focused around high-traffic areas. With the rainy season upon us, visibility will start to decrease and roads can be especially slippery at the first start of precipitation mixing with oil buildup on roadways. Cross only at crosswalks and don't jay walk across the street. Some of the most common cyclist collisions happen when drivers turn into the cyclist, so wear visible clothing and use proper turn signals when on the road.

Review the rules of the roads and school bus safety procedures with your children before heading back to school. Set a good example for them by obeying the rules of the road and remember to check out ICBC's website for resources on how to teach your child to be a safe pedestrian and cyclist. Drive safe as we head back to school!

Blair Qualey is President and CEO of the New Car Dealers Association of BC. You can email him at bqualey@newcardealers.ca.

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