School has started again in most jurisdictions and safety advocates across the country are reminding drivers to pay close attention to their surroundings and adjust their driving accordingly – especially when driving through areas where kids are likely to be present.
In British Columbia, the British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA) has produced "Slow Down, Kids Playing" signs to remind drivers of that point and help make roads safer for children across the province.
According to the B.C. Coroners Service, more than 2,400 child pedestrians are seriously injured and approximately 30 are killed each year in Canada.
Most of these injuries occur in September and October, followed by May and June. Kids between 5 and 14 are at the greatest risk for pedestrian-related injuries and fatalities.
The BCAA Road Safety Foundation has identified two key areas of risk for child pedestrians: driver behaviour – such as speeding, making U-turns, stopping in no-stopping zones, and backing up into crosswalks – and pedestrian distraction.
A study conducted by the University of Alabama at Birmingham reports that children who talk on cell phones while crossing the street are up to one-third more likely to be hit or nearly hit by a car.
Research from the Public Health Agency of Canada also indicates that up to 10% of injuries to pedestrians under the age of 24 were the result of them running into the street without looking – for example, because they were chasing a ball.
The Foundation offers a few tips to both drivers and children to help keep them safe on the road this school year.
Tips for drivers:
• Slow down and watch out for kids and be prepared to stop – especially in or near school and residential areas, intersections and crosswalks. Look for clues such as "Slow Down, Kids Playing" signs, School Zone signs, safety patrollers, bicycles, and playgrounds.
• Expect the unexpected – such as kids darting out from between parked cars. Always check for pedestrians when you're backing up, and be aware that kids could be present on any side of the vehicle.
• Let kids out on the side of the car closest to the sidewalk when dropping them off at school.
• Follow the rules of the road - yield to pedestrians and don't make U-turns, roll through stop signs or stop in no-stopping zones.
• Don't pass school buses when their red lights are flashing as this means that children are loading and unloading.
• Use extra caution in adverse weather conditions.
Tips for parents/guardians and kids:
• Teach your kids to find a safe place to cross the road, such as patrolled or marked crosswalks. Make sure they look both ways and make eye contact with drivers before they cross the street.
• Make it a rule for kids to stay off their cell phones or electronic devices while crossing the street; make sure they focus on the road and surrounding environment.
• Plan a safe route – walk on the sidewalk and consider having your child walk with a friend or parent or join a walking school bus.
• Teach your kids to look out for parked cars as cars may pull out or start moving when they don't expect it.
• Make sure your kids wear bright or reflective clothing so they can be seen in the dark or in poor weather. If they ride a bike, make sure they always wear a helmet and clothing with reflective strips. Equip their bike with lights, reflectors and a bell.
The "Slow Down, Kids Playing" signs are free of charge for BCAA Members and only $5 for other B.C. residents. The signs are available at all BCAA Service Centres.