As thousands of children head back to school this fall, Vancouver Police, the  Vancouver School Board and ICBC are reminding motorists to slow down and pay attention in school zones.

“We all want children to get to school safely and then to get home safely,” says Chief Jim Chu of the Vancouver Police Department. “That will happen if we slow down and pay attention. Do the Smart Thing! Slow Down in School Zones!”

Traffic officers and Speed Watch volunteers will be stepping up enforcement in school zones. The best way to ensure kids arrive at school and home safely is to go drive slowly. School zone speed limits are 30 km/h between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

“Let’s start the school year with an emphasis on student safety and mutual responsibility,” says Education Minister George Abbott. “We can all do our part to ensure roads and areas near our schools are safe. It starts with driver responsibility to use caution and drive without distractions, but it also means students need to be responsible whenever they are walking near traffic and using crosswalks.”

“Heading back to school is an exciting time for everyone. But it can also lead to a lot of traffic congestion in front of schools. We’re encouraging everyone to consider walking or cycling to school to cut down on traffic and increase student safety,” says Vancouver Board of Education Chair Patti Bacchus. “If you must drive, please drive slowly and safely, and if possible park a block or two away from the school and walk in.”

“We want to help parents keep their children safe as they start a new school year,” said Jill Blacklock, ICBC road safety program delivery manager. “With the excitement of going back to school, kids may not be paying attention to the road at all times so we’re encouraging parents to remind their children about the rules of the road and go over their route to school with them. Older kids need to be reminded about road safety too. Drivers should expect busier roads at this time of year so they should allow extra time, be cautious and look out for children, especially in school zones.”

Here are ICBC’s Smart Driving Tips for drivers and parents to help keep kids safe:

For Drivers

  • Now that school’s back, don’t forget that every school day, unless otherwise posted, a 30-km/h speed limit is in effect in school zones from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Vehicles approaching from both directions must stop for school buses when their lights are flashing.
  • Plan ahead and be alert. Driving routes will be busier, so give yourself extra time to get to your destination. Look for children near or around crosswalks and intersections.
  • Always yield to pedestrians – it’s the law.
  • If a vehicle is stopped in front of you or in the lane next to you, they may have yielded to a pedestrian, so be prepared to stop.
  • Watch for pedestrians when you’re backing up. Before getting into your vehicle, make it a habit to walk around your vehicle to make sure no small children are behind it.
  • When dropping off children in school zones stop and allow them to exit the car on the side closest to the sidewalk. Never allow a child to cross mid-block.

Tips for Parents and Students

  • We want to help parents keep their kids safe. Post these safety tips in your home and review them with your children – even older children need to be reminded about road safety.
  • Remove your headphones and put away your phone or other gadgets when crossing a street. Focus on the road so you can see, hear and respond safely.
  • As parents, we can help by reviewing the rules of the road with our children and going over their route to school. Try to make lessons fun and interactive. You could teach your child to memorize the chorus of “Walk ‘n’ Roll,” a song by children’s musician Will Stroet, which is included in ICBC’s Kindergarten to Grade Three road safety curriculum:

“Wear something bright,
Look left and look right,
Wait for the light,
Make sure you’re in the driver’s eyesight.”

  • Use designated crossing points and follow pedestrian traffic signs and signals. Make eye contact with drivers, so you both know you see each other. Teach your child to cross at intersections that have a pedestrian crossing light or a marked crosswalk whenever possible. Even at a crosswalk, be aware of traffic and always make sure that vehicles are stopped before walking.
  • Dress to be seen. Wear bright or light-coloured clothing. In dark or bad weather, wear reflective material on clothes or accessories.
  • Always walk on the inside edge of the sidewalk. This way, you’re further away from the traffic. If there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic so you can see oncoming vehicles and drivers see you.
  • Be aware of parked vehicles in a parking lot or on the road. A driver may not see you between parked vehicles and you may not see them moving. Before crossing or walking through a parking lot, stop and look left-right-left around the parked vehicle.
  • Encourage children to avoid taking shortcuts through parking lots.