School Zone Safety – Navigating the School Zone
With increasing traffic volume, school enrolments at capacity, and just the general morning rush, navigating the school zone at drop-off and pick-up can be a hazard that even Indiana Jones would shy from. Knowing the school zone safety rules and having a few tricks up your sleeve can help.
School zones – the rules
School zones are installed to reduce traffic speed near schools during the times indicated in the school zone sign. They are identified by signs which are displayed on both approaches to the school and show the speed limit and the times during which it applies. School zone times have been standardised in Queensland to help motorists remember when to slow down. The standard operating times for school zones in the Brisbane and greater Brisbane area is 7–9am and 2–4pm, with split-campus schools (on opposite sides of a road) running from 7am–4pm.
When driving through a school zone you must reduce your speed to the limit displayed – usually 40kph – or lower if conditions require.
Fines apply for exceeding the speed limit in a school zone within its designated times.
Why do we have school zones?
Children are at risk around school areas because they are small, can’t be easily seen by drivers, are more prone to running, have difficulty judging vehicle speeds and gaps, and have poorer perceptive skills than adults.
School zones are designed to alert drivers to the presence of children and to allow children safe access to the school’s grounds.
School zone safety – tips for motorists
School zones are very busy areas and drivers can easily become distracted. Parking spots are hotly contested, and when traffic is bumper-to-bumper, manoeuvring into a newly vacated space can be tricky. Remember to SLOW down:
S – Slow your speed; things can change quickly in a school zone and you need to be ready to react
L – Look for hazards; the child who has let go of Mum’s hand and is running to greet friends
O – Observe the rules; don’t stop in a no-standing zone or block a crossing etc.
W – Wait; be patient – you know that you’ll soon be on your way again, and impatience creates its own hazards.
School zone safety – tips for parents and caregivers
Set a good example
It’s tempting as a grown-up to cut through queued traffic and dash through gaps to cross the road, but your child isn’t capable of making the same judgement calls. Model ‘safety-first’ behaviour by always crossing at designated crossing places and following the directions of the crossing patrol personnel.
If there is no designated crossing patrol, show your child how to choose a safe place to cross and practice the rules – Stop! Look! Listen! Think!
- Stop! One step back from the kerb and away from parked vehicles. Make sure you have a clear view of the road
- Look! Continuously look both ways for approaching traffic
- Listen! For approaching vehicles
- Think! Is it safe to cross? If the road is clear in both directions and there is no traffic approaching, cross carefully while continuing to look left and right and listen for traffic until you safely reach the other side.
Plan your approach
You can avoid the need to cross the road entirely by approaching the school from the other direction. A detour around the block might add a few minutes to your day, but you’ll have easier access to safe drop-off points.
The ‘safe side’
When pulling into a drop-off zone or parking space, make sure your children get out of the car on the ‘safe side’ – that’s the side nearest the footpath, not into the road.
Kiss and Go
It’s just that! The drop-off zone – or Kiss and Go – is designed to keep traffic flowing. It’s not the place to pull over for a chat with other parents and teachers, or to quickly jump out and run your child over to the gate. For the sake of those waiting their turn behind you, make sure your child has their bag close by and is ready to exit the car as soon as it’s your turn.
If your child travels to school independently, teach them to be aware of their environment. Wearing headphones, for example, can be distracting and prevent your child from hearing oncoming traffic or warnings.
If your child has to walk through a car park, make sure they are alert for reversing vehicles. Drivers in car parks can often be more focussed on finding a spot than on spotting pedestrians.
Cross the road
When collecting your child at the end of the school day, always meet them on the school side of the road. Calling out to your child from across the road may cause them to run into the traffic to meet you.
Make a plan
Plan ahead and tell your child exactly where you will be waiting for them at the end of the day, and what they should do if you are running late, i.e. to wait with a teacher or in the school office until they can be collected.
Practice school zone safety
Back-to-school is a bustling time, and if your child is just starting prep or is transitioning to a new school, it may take a little practice to get to know the layout and routine of your school zone. Make a trial run before the school term begins to get an idea of the normal traffic volume at drop-off and pick-up times, and factor in an additional time allowance for the increased volume on school days. Make sure to take note of where the school zone begins and ends, road signs and markings, available parking and potential hazards, and plan for a safe and organised school run.
Want to know more about school safety? Check out our article on school lockdowns and what they are.
*This editorial appears in our print issue 38; February/March 2020. Schools are welcome to share this link in their newsletters!