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Behind-the-Wheel

Learning to drive in school zones

School zone safety

We place a high value on our children and signify that with school and playground zones.

Traffic is required to slow to the lowest speed limit that we normally post and drivers are expected to pay more attention than usual. Students must get to and from school safely.

My enforcement experience has shown me that during the peak rush before and after classes, quite a few violators consist of parents and school staff. These are the people that are in a hurry to drop the kids off before work, stop where they are not supposed to because they will "just be a minute" and drop their cargo off where they have to cross the busy street to get to the school because the parking lot is full.

The lime yellow pentagon is the standard sign used to mark school zones. What a driver must do depends on the tab placed below it.

• If there is no tab at all, the driver should proceed with extra caution at any time of the day or day of the week.

• Black on yellow tabs are advisory. You may choose to follow their adv

ice depending on the circumstances that you find at the time.

• Black on white tabs are regulatory. You must follow their direction without fail.

At minimum, school zones are in effect from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. Pay close attention to the regulatory tab on the sign as times may begin before and after those times if posted.

A school zone ends after you pass by the sign on the left side of the road. Some municipalities have installed a "School Zone Ends" sign on the back of the sign to make the boundary more visible.

Regulatory tabs are in effect on a regular school day. These are days in the school calendar set by the individual school district and include sports days and Pro D days. The safe bet is to follow them on any day, Monday through Friday, that is not a statutory holiday.

Let's consider a school zone about 400 meters in length. This distance might even be a bit long for most zones, but it takes about 29 seconds to drive this distance at 50 km/h. Slow down to 30 km/h and it takes about 48 seconds, or only 19 seconds longer. 19 seconds is trivial and I'll dare to say that all drivers can spare 19 seconds out of their day to contribute to school zone safety.

School crosswalks, marked and unmarked, are another consideration. They are often controlled by crossing guards and you must obey the guard's direction. When a guard is not present it's probably best to expect the unexpected. It doesn't matter if you are a driver or a pedestrian, stop, look, listen, make eye contact and proceed only when safe.

Similar to a regular school bus, a walking school bus has a predetermined route to pick-up children and drop them off along the way to and from school. The "driver" of the bus is usually a parent volunteer that takes turns with others from the neighbourhood to guide a safe trip.

The bicycle train operates on the same concept to guide young cyclists to and from school safely.

School Zone Tips From ICBC:

• If you drop off your child in a school zone, allow them to exit the car on the side closest to the sidewalk. Never allow a child to cross mid-block.

• If a vehicle's stopped in front of you or in the lane next to you, they may be yielding to a pedestrian, so proceed with caution and be prepared to stop.

• Watch for school buses and when their lights are flashing, vehicles approaching from both directions must stop.

• Before getting into your vehicle, walk around it to make sure no small children are hidden from your view. Always look for pedestrians when you're backing up.

• In residential areas, a hockey net or ball can mean that kids are playing nearby. Watch for children as they could dash into the street at any moment.

• Remember 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. In playground zones, a 30 km/h speed limit is in effect every day from dawn to dusk.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



More Behind the Wheel articles

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About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

To comment, please email

To learn more, visit DriveSmartBC



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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