A student walks off the bus at a school in Montreal, on Monday, August 31, 2020. (Canadian Press/Paul Chiasson)

OPINION: Parents reminded to stay calm behind wheel as school starts

Stressful pandemic situation could exacerbate traffic issues, says BCAA

A press release about road safety and back to school piqued my interest this week.

It came from the folks at BCAA, who know a thing or two about safety issues and where problems lie with drivers. And in the hot seat this time? Parents dropping off and picking up their kids.

Finally.

“BCAA urges calm, kind and safe driving as parents get behind the wheel this back to school,” it reads.

So many reminders go out to the general public announcing back to school as if it’s not ingrained in society. But this message? This message gets to those who we’d think would be the most careful drivers on the block. You know. The baby-on-board crew, stick figure families on rear windows, and bumpers stickers announcing a child’s report card stats.

Many of us who have done the time in the dropoff line know the truth. It’s a gauntlet of bad driving to pass day in and day out. And that’s without the stress of a pandemic and all the accompanying fears of a school environment.

“Back to school is stressful enough at the best of times and these aren’t the best of times,” says Shawn Pettipas, BCAA’s Director of Community Engagement. “Time and time again we see parents are stressed and rushing, and rushing leads to unsafe driving.”

BCAA has researched the issue and found a wide range of unsafe driving behaviours during the first few weeks of back to school. Last year, 80 per cent of B.C. parents said speeding in school zones was an issue, while 73 per cent reported drivers not stopping at crosswalks and 56 per cent saw at least one near miss involving a child almost being hit by a car.

READ MORE: School board asks staff to delve into road safety

“If anything,” the press release states, “there may be more road safety issues as parents navigate all the changes and anxiety that come with returning to school in the COVID-era.”

The tips they offer up are worth repeating. Maybe create a driving mantra as you prepare to get the kiddos off to class, or a sticky note for the dashboard as a reminder.

• Build in extra time to prevent rushing.

• Focus on what you can control. Be patient and courteous. Reacting with extreme frustration may aggravate the situation and increase the risk of unsafe driving behaviours.

• Expect the unexpected. Look out for safety risks such as kids darting from cars, along with kids who are cycling and other pedestrians. With staggered bell times this year, expect a longer ‘peak’ time for drop off and pick up.

• Follow school zone rules. Respect your school’s drop off and pick up procedures, along with traffic rules such as driving within the speed limit, stopping at marked cross walks and not driving distracted.

• Avoid common mistakes. Don’t double park or stop on crosswalks, which can block pedestrians’ visibility, and always avoid stopping on the opposite side of the street or in moving traffic, which would require children to cross through traffic.

• Leave the car at home. Consider walking or cycling with your child. Or park and walk the last block or two.

BCAA even has advice for companies with workers who have children. They’ve created a “no meeting zone” during drop off and pick up time so parents can get their kids without feeling they have to rush back to the office or home office. Seems like a solid plan, which flexible employers could get behind.

Finally, he adds this positive note, reminding employers about the importance of school zone safety, as well.

“I hope companies will give their workers with kids going back to school the flexibility they need to get through this difficult time,” Pettipas adds. “Workers who have to rush back to work for a meeting may make bad driving decisions. Let’s do what we can to help our families stay calm and stay safe.”

And for the rest of us? Remember that school is back in session Thursday, drive accordingly, and avoid routes with school zones when possible.

READ MORE: Chilliwack man urging drivers to follow rules of the road


@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

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