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How to avoid being ticketed in a school zone

Published September 7, 2012
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Our driving environment has changed once again. It’s a seasonal change but not so much in weather conditions, but in road conditions.

Yes, school is back in and our driving conditions are not what they were for the past two months. Teachers will be commuting to class, student buses will be rolling again and parents will be dropping off their young ones at school. Traffic congestion has increased again.

To reduce the risks as well as the stress we should all prepare for a longer commute. Leave 10 minutes earlier instead of getting frustrated with the inevitable added congestion that will be on our roads.

Every motorist and trucker needs to be patient with school buses. They will be returning by the thousands and all drivers need to be aware of their presence and the regulations when encountering them. Among them will be newly trained bus drivers who are bound to be nervous and distracted.

Some motorists are confused by what they should do when they encounter a school bus. Other drivers simply don’t know and some are in too much of a rush to pay heed to the rules of traffic that govern traffic and school buses.

Here is a review of what to do when you encounter a school bus.

Section 175 of the Highway Traffic Act is very specific and incorporates severe penalties for motorists who do not obey the rules. This is what drivers must do when approaching a school bus that has its red lights flashing.

Traffic travelling on undivided roads in both directions must stop when the overhead red signal lights are flashing on a school bus. They may not proceed until the red lights have stopped flashing. Drivers approaching the front of the bus must stop before reaching the bus and allow plenty of room for students to cross the road in front of the bus. When approaching from the rear, drivers must stop at least 20m behind the bus and they can not proceed until the red lights have stopped flashing. If the road is divided by a median, only traffic on the same side of the road as the bus must stop.

Note this applies when the red overhead lights are flashing and not the amber flashers.

Children are unpredictable. Drivers should watch carefully that the children are a safe distance from the bus before proceeding. It is not unheard of that a child has run back across the road to the bus as it was leaving. In some cases, the students may have to cross the road in front of the school bus. The bus will remain stopped with the overhead lights flashing until the children have safely crossed the road.

The punishment for failing to stop will range from $400 for the first offence up to $4,000 and/or imprisonment for subsequent infractions.

Use extra care in school zones. With many of these students preoccupied with talking with old friends or making new friends, traffic is not high on their priority list. We all need to be alert to and pay extra attention particularly in school zones as students walk to and from school. Drivers need to watch for children running out between parked cars and crossing roads while chatting and socializing.

Each year at this time the police will begin a crackdown on speeding drivers in school zones and each year thousands of motorists will be ticketed for carelessly speeding through these districts. Be smart, be safe and be a responsible driver and slow down near schools.

Students can be so involved in their “texting” that they forget to watch for traffic or signals which can have tragic consequences. If you encounter a youngster with their hands busily typing and their heads looking down, expect anything to happen and prepare for the worst.

Skateboarders and kids on roller blades or other wheeled devices may not always be in complete control. Always use caution when you see children on any mechanical apparatus. Give them plenty of room and expect them to lose control.

Along with all the school buses that are back on the road, motorists should watch for novice drivers. Many students worked at earning their driver’s licence over the summer holidays and may be driving alone for the first time. Some will have their own vehicles while others may have access to mom or dad’s. We will be sharing the road with these inexperienced drivers and need to keep an eye open for them and be patient. A few may have other students with them which will result in more distracted drivers on our roads as they socialize with each other.

Watch for cyclists. More cyclists will be on our streets as students use the most convenient or least expensive means of getting to and from school. We must share the road with cyclists and give them plenty of space. Cyclists also need to respect bigger vehicles and conform to the rules of the road like any other vehicle.

Every motorist and trucker needs to focus on their driving, slow down, watch for children and take it easy, especially in school zones.

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