Back-to-school safety by the book

As the lazy hazy days of summer come to an end and back to school season has begun, we know that schools look much different this year. Let’s make sure we’re all safe during the transition. From wearing masks and physical distancing to staggered class start times and compressed drop-off and pick-up times, there is a lot to remember…but we can do it together!  

Slow and steady wins the race!

Remember to drive within the 30 km/h speed limit around schools and playgrounds. Driving at this speed allows you to stop quickly and increases the likelihood that everyone will escape serious injury or fatality in a crash. All elementary and junior high schools in Edmonton are within playground zones, and the 30 km/h speed limit is in effect daily from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. And, it’s not just in front of the school where drivers have to be careful as parents and buses drop off and pick up students. Many children walk or cycle to school from the surrounding neighbourhoods, so children may cross the street where drivers aren’t expecting them.

Maxium 30 Km/Hr playground traffic sign in front of a school

Proof is in the pudding…or shall we say research?

“One of our main Vision Zero priorities is improving traffic safety at schools,” said Jessica Lamarre, Director of Traffic Safety for the City of Edmonton. “We know that slower is safer. Since 30 km/h playground zones were implemented, collisions in school zones have decreased by 13%, injuries and fatalities have decreased by 42%, and injuries to vulnerable road users have decreased by 71%.”

Through the school safety program, City of Edmonton traffic safety engineers review a set of schools each year and implement upgrades tailored to each location. Working with school boards, the City improved street safety and livability at more than 160 schools between 2015 and 2019. This year alone, 34 rapid flashing beacons have been installed to help people cross the street safely.

Livability is a word you hear traffic safety engineers talk about a lot. It means commuting to work or school without fear, easy grocery runs, and riding bikes, scooters, or rollerblades for fun. A livable city has streets that are easy to navigate, enjoyable to travel on and where people have opportunities to connect with neighbours.

Van stopped at a crosswalk with children entering the crosswalk

The way you park matters

Parking is also a quiet investment in livability.

Please remember to park responsibly around schools and playgrounds to help keep children safe. When dropping off or picking up students, please park legally or walk to the school and know your school’s procedures. Vehicles that are parked too close to crosswalks and intersections or are stopped in the middle of the road create congestion and visual obstructions. This can make it hard for other drivers to see pedestrians, especially children crossing the street.

“What’s easiest isn’t necessarily the safest,” said Troy Courtoreille, coordinator of Parking Enforcement Services.

“Back to school looks vastly different this year. We are asking parents to consider how parking habits can contribute to an unsafe environment. Illegal parking and drop-offs can block sightlines and cause obstructions, turning school zones into danger zones for children.”

Even though going back to school has changed this year, we can all make sure students get there and back safely by taking a bit of extra time, preparing ourselves, and renewing and deepening our commitment to safety around schools.