I remember taking my daughter to and from school when she was little as being a stressful experience due to the poor driving habits on the parts of the parents and poor safety habits on the parts of the children. Both as a parent and a teacher, school zone safety was a topic that came up frequently at school council meetings and for good reason.
Insurance Hunter’s survey on driver safety in school zones of parents with children between the ages of 4 and 14 who either walk or are driven to school reveals some pretty disturbing information about school zone safety. 80% of those surveyed report having seen drivers breaking traffic laws in school zones including speeding, talking on a cell phone while driving, running red lights, and failing to stop for school crossing guards. 21% of drivers report having to stop suddenly or swerve out of the way to avoid hitting a student walking on or near school property, and 13% say they've been hit or nearly hit by a vehicle on or near school property during school hours.
I was surprised to note that of the parents surveyed, 25% responded that their school didn't even have a designated drop off/pick up zone. Before ours were put into place, the school zone was a safety nightmare as parents stopped pretty much anywhere to drop off or pick up their children, resulting in children darting
between cars and fender benders. Even with schools that do provide a designated pick up/drop off zone, 43% of parents reported these areas as very overcrowded and only 34% called them easy to access. Furthermore, 38% said that they had never received any communication from their child's school about the school's policies and procedures for the drop off/pick up zones.
In the schools in which I worked or my daughter attended, we tried to encourage families to carpool or walk their children to school as much as possible to cut down on traffic around the school. We had frequent drills and practices with the students to reinforce proper safety procedures with them, teaching them not only what they should and should not be doing but also what their parents or other drivers should and should not be doing in the school zone. We sent home newsletters to every family outlining our policies and procedures for the drop off/pick up area at least twice a year. We also had parents and teachers taking turns at the drop off/pick up zones to monitor them and enforce the rules as needed. I'm not going to tell you that this made for perfect school zone safety but it certainly helped.
I encourage you to check out the Ontario School Zone Safety Survey for yourself and to share it with the parents and staff of your children's school. And if you have any great ideas on how school zone safety has been or could be improved in your community, I'd love for you to leave a comment.
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