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tips return to school driving

14 de September de 2021

Return to School by Car: Tips and Thoughts

Life is full of trials and tribulations: just as the summer, with its ‘Beach-Body’ challenges and other sagas, comes to an end, it’s time for Back to School season. And it’s not just a return, but an eternal return: they go back to class and you drop them off at school day in and day out, until they graduate… Before we get into all that, however, we thought we could stop to reflect for a moment on the return to school and its relationship with road safety. And with other matters.

The return to school and why it’s important for road safety

It’s always advisable, even more so with everything that’s going on now, to avoid unnecessary scares. We all know how important it is to be careful when dropping off or picking up our children from school or when we’re driving near a school. There’s no need for anyone to tell us that. But looking at statistics may help us get a clearer picture of the situation.

For example, according to a study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the United States, there were more deaths of pedestrians under the age of 19 between 7 and 8 in the morning and 3 and 4 in the afternoon, than in any other time frame. These account for almost 48% of deaths. To cite another example, in the United Kingdom, 23% of minors’ deaths, both pedestrians and vehicle occupants, occur between 3 and 5 in the afternoon. This is an accident-risk situation that has been camouflaged as part of everyday life. Making it even more dangerous.

But instead of just sticking to the statistics, let’s move on to something more constructive: reflecting on what we can do.

How will we return to school tomorrow?

If you live in a big city, you likely already know of initiatives to reduce traffic around schools. Some may be more organised than others, but this international movement shares the same starting point, and it goes beyond road safety. This isn’t just a matter for the here and now; it’s important for the future, too. Ellie Anzilotti speaks about this in an article for Fast Company. ‘Not only is the school drop-off a breeding ground for injuries and crashes as stressed-out parents try to manoeuvre cars around scrambling kids, research is proving that it also wrecks the ambient air quality around schools, potentially setting up children for health issues later in life.”. The idea to limit car drop-offs and pick-ups has been spreading: London Edinburgh, Vienna, Bolzano…

Of course, the debate is open. And it’s part of a broader issue, one about the concept of city living and even coexistence. There has to be a way to reconcile the needs of parents and students, educational establishments and businesses. But again, to put the situation into context, it may be helpful to look at more specific data: a study by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health concluded that during the time children travel on foot they absorb 20% of the total dose of pollution daily, according to Mónica R. Goya.

As with all controversial issues, it’s important to figure out whether proposals that may cause potential inconveniences (or ‘adaptation periods’, if you prefer a more positive term), will be effective. Ideally, through realistic pilot trials. And it seems that we do have that data.

So, do these measures work?

Common sense tells us that reducing the number of vehicles involved in manoeuvres in a limited space and time would help reduce accidents. And, of course, it would also reduce pollution levels, to a greater or lesser extent. But to what extent?

The Air Quality Consultants study on the School Streets initiative (implemented in several London schools in 2017), states that nitrogen dioxide levels were reduced by 23%. Because of this, it received the backing of Transport for London, the British capital’s transport authority. And as a consequence, the number of schools that have adopted these measures has increased exponentially.

Tips for the first day back

All of these approaches to the future are certainly interesting. And even necessary. But with vehicle restrictions or not, with new measures or not, for now we’ll have to continue doing the school run as normal.

That’s why we thought it would be useful to round up some tips and recommendations that we found especially helpful. Or rather, that should always be in the forefront of our minds. Seguridad Vial en la Empresa (Road Safety at Companies) put together a helpful list. Here are some of the key takeaways:

  • Children under 1.35 m should always go in the back seat.. The only exception is when other children are sat in the back in a car seat, or there is no child restraint system on them. If the child has to travel in the front seat, the passenger airbag must be deactivated.
  • Remember to take off your child’s coat or backpack when they sit in the seat so that they are properly secured.
  • Slow down around schools or around the traffic limit zone. Remember the statistics we shared before.
  • No exceptions: don’t park your car in a double row.
  • Help the child out of the car, if necessary (it likely will be if they are in a car seat). Always do this from the pavement side and after having checked the rear-view mirror.

All these tips have a common theme: these are ways to lead by example. You likely already know that when it comes to educating, it’s not just what you say that matters, but what you do. ‘Forcing yourself’ to follow these rules isn’t just about safety, it’s about education. RACE stressed this message a few years ago in a press release: ‘Educating them in road safety will mould their values’.

I’m sure we can all agree on that.

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