Thousands of school kids across Vancouver Island are heading back to the classroom next week. This brings more congestion to the roads, so ICBC and the RCMP are urging drivers to stay focused behind the wheel, using extra caution in school zones.

Here on the island, ICBC says an average of two children walking or cycling are killed each year, with 52 injured in crashes. Province-wide, that number jumps to 370, with a yearly average of five kids killed in accidents across B.C.

“If you walk to school, cross at designated crosswalks, ensure traffic has stopped, and that drivers can see you when you are crossing the street,” the BC RCMP says.

They add, “Consider adding bright colours to your back-to-school wardrobe for better pedestrian visibility.”

Leading up to the first day of school, Tues., Sept. 7th, drivers are being reminded the speed limit in school zones is 30 km/h, unless otherwise posted. And in playground zones, that same speed limit is in effect every day from dawn to dusk. In B.C., the fine for speeding in a school or playground zone can vary from $196 to $253.

“Many schools also have other traffic considerations, such as one-way student drop-off loops, and turning restrictions. Familiarizing yourself with the traffic pattern around your school and planning your route will help eliminate some of the stress of dropping off the kids,” the BC RCMP says.

As well, to avoid a $368 fine, drivers must come to a complete stop for all school buses when red lights are flashing and children are getting on or off the bus.

ICBC’s tips for drivers:

  • 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.