It’s that time of year! Back to school! Are you ready for the increased traffic?

It’s the end of summer and you can almost hear the cheering of parents who can’t wait for their kids to be back in school. It happens every year but a reminder is always a good idea that our roads are about to get busier than ever and there are hazards to watch for. For commercial truck drivers, this means sharing the roads with school bus drivers and parents driving kids to school. There will also be pedestrians and cyclists to watch out for, especially youngsters who may not remember their safety rules.

Be aware of drop-off zones

For commercial drivers, avoiding school zones is the best option, when possible. But when it’s unavoidable, use extra caution around schools. Parents aren’t always models of good behaviour as they drop off their kids. In fact, BCAA gave parents in Burnaby, BC, a C- for their behaviour. They definitely won’t go to the head of the class for this behaviour!

● Blocking traffic
● Making unsafe drop-offs/pick-ups
● Speeding in school zones
● Not letting other vehicles pass
● Encouraging kids to cross roads unsafely

As a professional driver, you know better. Be sure to obey the speed limit, watch for school zone signs, and pay attention to crosswalks.

When the school bus stops, you stop

Many kids, especially in rural areas, are picked up and dropped off at the side of a road. You know this: All drivers must stop when they see red lights on a school bus. It means students are entering or leaving the bus. It applies whether you are driving behind a school bus or toward one. Don’t just watch for kids but expect them to dart out in front of your truck. Stay put until the bus moves or the driver signals it’s safe to proceed by turning off the flashing lights.

Limit distractions

Distracted driving isn’t just about cell phones. Anything that takes your eyes off the road is a distraction, including your GPS, stereo, and other in-dash electronics. Remember to use your best practices.

● Activate your GPS and input your location before you drive away. Don’t try to program it while you’re driving.
● Secure any loose items, such as wrappers, coffee cups, CD cases, and anything else that might grab your attention, especially if you have to stop quickly.
● Take a deep breath and clear your thoughts. Remember, whatever is on your mind, you can’t do anything about it while you’re driving. Wait until you’re finished driving for the day to deal with it.

Share the road with cyclists

ICBC reports that, on average, nearly four out of five crashes involving cyclists in BC occur at intersections. Be kind as you share the roads with cyclists.

● Yield the right-of-way, and signal well in advance if you need to pull over or cross a designated bike lane.
● Scan for cyclists before you enter the roadway, shoulder check for cyclists before turning right, and watch for oncoming cyclists before turning left.
● Maintain at least three seconds behind cyclists and at least one metre when passing a cyclist.
● Do a shoulder check before you open the door of your cab.

Animals on the Road

Urban drivers likely won’t see many animals heading back to school, but outside the city you may need to watch for wildlife on the road, as well as children and school buses. Remember that fall is a busy time for animals as they migrate to find food and mates. Collisions with wildlife don’t just happen. Hitting wildlife with a vehicle can be very hazardous for people as well as animals. Watch out!

● Look for posted signs warning of wildlife in the area.
● Slow down and drive to conditions. A reduction in speed as little as 5 kph could make a world of difference.
● Focus on driving. A momentary lapse in concentration may be the difference between seeing an animal and reacting properly or being surprised and hitting it.

And finally, remember that kids heading back to school are distracted and excited. They may not be watching, so be cautious and give them a brake.

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