TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN
Sisters Mattie Noto and Natalie Noto-Ruddick board a school bus on Young Street on their first day back to school on Wednesday.
On foot, on the bus, riding their bikes or catching rides with family or friends, the kids are flocking back to school this week.
And Manitoba Public Insurance, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection and Manitoba’s Mounties want to ensure they arrive there safely.
Manitoba drivers need to refocus and refamiliarize themselves with safe driving tips as students return to the classroom, MPI officials warn.
The return of students results in a dramatic increase in pedestrian and cycling activity in many neighbourhoods.
Unfortunately, more than 4,000 Canadian children are hit yearly by motor vehicles while playing outdoors or walking to school, said Ward Keith, executive director of driver safety and regulatory control for MPI.
"Young children in particular may not comprehend the dangers associated with crossing a street unsafely," Keith said. "The onus of responsibility lies with parents and motorists to ensure everyone gets to school safely."
To assist with school-zone safety, Manitoba Public Insurance offers to loan out speed reader boards through its School Zone SpeedWatch program.
School or parent groups can borrow the equipment to raise drivers’ awareness of their speeds as they pass through school zones.
Those interested can call Manitoba Public Insurance, SpeedWatch co-ordinator, road safety department, 204-9858737 or 18887677640 (toll free).
To avoid a collision, drivers, parents and pedestrians are encouraged to observe the following safety tips:
• Look well ahead to spot school buses and school zone signs; reduce speed in school zones and wait for children to cross completely before proceeding.
• Stop at least five metres behind a school bus when the upper red lights begin to flash, and do not proceed until the "stop sign" is closed and the red lights stop flashing. Motorists travelling in both directions must stop for the school bus, except if the road is divided by a median.
• Scan under parked cars for the feet of children approaching traffic, and make lane changes early to allow room for children on bicycles, skateboards or roller blades.
• If you are driving your children to school, drop them off in a safe area, away from traffic; use a designated drop-off zone if the school has one.
• Cross only at intersections whenever possible, preferably at those controlled by signs or traffic control signs.
• When crossing the street, regardless of the availability of signals, cross as quickly as possible. Minimize time in the roadway.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Centre is urging parents and teachers to use the Billy Brings his Buddies program to teach children the buddy system safety strategy.
"When children learn and use the buddy system, they reduce their likelihood of being victimized and increase their personal safety," says Lianna McDonald, executive director of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection.
"Research shows that children who go places alone are at a greater risk of being harmed, so it’s important for parents to talk to their kids about the importance of always bringing a buddy along.
"Teachers can also help reinforce this safety strategy by using the Billy Brings his Buddies program with students throughout the school year."
Sponsored by Honeywell Hometown Solutions, the Billy Brings His Buddies program is a part of the Canadian Centre’s Kids in the Know interactive child personal safety program for students from kindergarten to Grade 9.
The Billy initiative is for Grade 1 students, and includes a website (billybuddy.ca) where parents and educators can access an online storybook, interactive games and other activities to help them teach young children about the buddy system.
Teachers can also download a free copy of the Billy Brings His Buddies Grade 1 Teacher Kit, which includes a lesson plan and poster for the classroom as well as at-home activities to send home to parents to complete with their child.
Back to School Safety Tips:
The RCMP offers these tips to ensure the safety of Manitoba students:
Walking to School
• Make sure your child’s walk to school is a safe route and your child is familiar with it. Walk with them until they know the route and can do it safely.
• Always stop and look both ways before crossing the street.
• Small children can be less cautious around traffic. Carefully consider whether your child is ready to walk to school without adult supervision.
• Consider having a designated adult walk to school with a group of neighbourhood children.
• Walk or ride the bus with a "buddy."
On the School Bus
• Always wait for the bus before approaching from the curb.
• Remain seated and do not move around on the bus.
• Always board and exit the bus at a location that provides safe access to the school bus or the school.
Riding Your Bike
• Always remember to wear a helmet, even on a short ride.
• Ride on the right hand side in the same direction as traffic.
• Wear bright or high visibility clothing.
• Know the "rules of the road."
• At busy intersections, get off your bike and walk across.
Driving to School
• Use extra caution around school zones, crosswalks and school buses.
•Watch out for young pedestrians and cyclists.
• Driver and passengers should always wear their seatbelts.
• In many rural areas, novice teen drivers are driving to and from school. Ensure that young drivers are wearing their seatbelts and are not distracted by car stereos, cellphones, text messaging, or other passengers.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 6, 2012