It’s been a whirlwind of back-to-school activities over the last couple weeks, with social media feeds full of cute first-day pics. There is so much positive anticipation, but also maybe a bit of frustration, as families try to figure out bus and carpool schedules and rush to get everyone to their respective destinations in time.
School and playground zones are busy, and exasperated parents are pleading with each other in community chat groups to be careful as they try to drop their children off. As we ease back into the school year, remind yourself of safe driving tips around children.
Kids are vulnerable road users
Because they are smaller, children are especially vulnerable both as pedestrians and as cyclists. The City of Edmonton states that at least 20% of vehicle-related injuries involving children require hospitalization, with those aged 5 to 14 years at the greatest risk for pedestrian-related deaths. Children a little older, aged 10 to 14 years (the perfect age for tearing around on bikes all day), have the highest incidence of pedestrian-related injuries.
Some reasons why children are especially vulnerable:
- They can’t accurately judge the speed of cars and their distance away
- They assume a driver has seen them
- They think cars can stop instantly
- Their peripheral vision has not developed as much
- They don’t realize just how dangerous vehicles can be
Adhere to speed limits and be ready to react at all times
We’ve talked before about the switch from calling defensive driving to proactive driving and how much we agree with that. Proactive driving involves constantly assessing the surroundings and allowing yourself the time and space react if needed.
Speed limits of 30 km/hr in school and playground zones provide drivers the ability to scan well ahead of their vehicles for developing dangers and behind for upcoming hazards. Try to look at least 12 to 15 seconds ahead of yourself, watching for people, road signs, and other drivers. Slow down well ahead of school and playground zones, and approach all intersections with extreme caution. Be highly aware of your surroundings, obey the road signs, drive slowly, and anticipate that just about anything can happen. Never drive distracted.
Intersections are especially dangerous in residential areas. Watch for pedestrians in both marked and unmarked crosswalks. Unmarked crosswalks are at every intersection where there is a sidewalk at every corner a person can cross the street. They extend from the corner of one sidewalk, across the road, to the corner of the opposite sidewalk.
Not only is there unpredictable pedestrian behaviour to anticipate, young people are also biking, scooting, skateboarding, and even hovering their way to school. For the most part, kids should not be out on roadways on anything other than a bike. Skateboards and scooters are allowed in Calgary’s cycle track network, so review your bike lane etiquette. Remember that when turning right across a bike lane you must check for oncoming traffic – the people in the bike lane have the right of way.
Hours for school and playground zones
School and playground zone hours differ from municipality to municipality in Alberta. In Calgary and Edmonton, the hours for both have been made the same to help reduce confusion among drivers. In both cities, school and playground zones are in effect from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day where signs are posted. If you are heading into a different municipality, it is advisable to check what their school and playground zone hours are ahead of time, or just slow down every time you see a sign.
Penalties for speeding in a school or playground zone
There are very good reasons why the speed limit for school and playground zones in all of Alberta is 30 km/hr. The impact of a 30 km/hr collision is similar to that of falling from second-storey window, while the impact of a 50 km/hr collision is similar to that of falling from a fourth-storey window. Driving more slowly greatly reduces the risk of severe injury, but it doesn’t mean accidents won’t happen at all. Even in favourable conditions, it still takes about 12 metres to stop (about five to react, and the rest to brake and slow down), when travelling at 30 km/hr, explains the City of Edmonton.
From 2016 to 2018, the average fine for speeding in a playground zone was $131.69, says the CBC, with demerit points depending on how fast the person was going. For 15 kilometres and less an hour over the speed limit, two demerit points are assigned, for up to 30 kilometres an hour over the limit, four demerit points are assigned, and so on.
- Improper passing in a school zone earns three demerit points.
- Failure to yield to a pedestrian at an alley entrance, at a green light, at a flashing yellow light (either intersection or not, or in a school/playground zone), or in a crosswalk (marked or unmarked) will result in a three-demerit ticket.
- Failing to stop for a school bus can rack up a 6-demerit ticket.
Watch speed elsewhere in communities
In both Calgary and Edmonton the default speed for residential roads is 40 km/hr. This change was made in the spring of this year in Calgary and has not necessarily become habit as of yet. If you aren’t sure about the speed limit for your road, you can look it up here. A good rule of thumb is to assume the limit is 40 km/hr unless otherwise posted.
Keep your car insurance low with safe driving habits
Everyone knows that safe driving habits are rewarded with lower car insurance rates, plus it’s simply the right way to operate a vehicle. If your car insurance rates keep rising while you are claims-free, it might be a good time to call an experienced insurance broker such as us at Lane’s. Remember, you are free to switch your insurance coverage at any time.
Lane’s Insurance is a leading Alberta-based brokerage working out of Calgary, Banff, Edmonton and greater Alberta. Our brokers work hard to find you the very best coverage at the lowest possible rates, and will always be available to answer your insurance-related questions.