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Back to school: ACL's advice

Published on 01.08.2023

A new school year is upon us and for many children this will also be the first time they find themselves faced with road traffic.


The Automobile Club has the following advice for both drivers and parents to help all parties prepare for the start of the new school year.
 


Advice for parents driving their children to school by car:

  • In order to avoid a build-up of traffic in the areas surrounding the school that would put pupils at greater danger, it’s wise to drop the child off some distance from the school (such as at a car park, a drop-off point designated by the local authorities especially for schoolchildren, etc.) and give him the opportunity to make the short walk to the school.
  • Have the child get into and out of the car on the pavement in front of the school and make sure that they look carefully before getting out of the vehicle. Where possible, park in an authorised spot a certain distance away from the school and have the child walk to the entrance.
  • Never double-park when stopping or parking.
  • Always ensure that children's seatbelts are correctly fastened and teach them to do this themselves, even over short distances.
  • Think about arranging to take it in turns with other parents in the area as this will reduce traffic around the school.
  • Never perform a U-turn or any complicated manoeuvres close to schools.
 

Advice for parents walking their children to school:

  • Teach the child that seeing and being seen are two different things - just because the child sees a car, it doesn’t mean that its driver has seen the child.
  • Practice the journey to school several times before school starts back to make sure that the child has thoroughly memorised it as well as the the places and points along the way that will require greater attention (pedestrian crossings, traffic lights, parking, etc.). Repetition reinforces good behaviour. Ensure that the child does not walk on the outside of the pavement.
  • Choose the safest route to school, even if it is not the shortest. It is important, however, that the chosen route be also often taken by other children. Encountering a certain number of children along the same route tends to put motorists on their guard, and children are less likely to let their minds wander if they are walking with other children.
  • Take an interest in what the child has to say. If they talk to you about their journey to school, listen carefully to any problems they may be experiencing. Take the child seriously and give them a specific response.
  • Ensure that the child has enough time to get themselves to school. After all, if you tell a child “Come on, run, hurry up or you’ll be late!” you’re literally encouraging them not to pay attention.
  • Choose easily visible clothing so that the child stands out among the traffic. Light-coloured coats with reflective strips are ideal for the winter months. (retroreflective stickers and accessories can be purchased from the ACL’s Shop service).
 

 Advice for parents whose children cycle to school:

Once they reach 10 years of age, the child’s peripheral vision becomes sufficiently developed to assess speeds and distances, which is essential when it comes to traffic and road safety. However, it is also vital that the child be able to master both using their bicycle and the rules of the road before deciding whether you allow them to make these daily journeys on their own. Things to consider:
 
  • Take the child out on their bike in all types of traffic (towns and villages, roads and paths) to ensure that the child has the necessary control to ride alone. Alternatively, the school might offer such a service and have the child sit a cycling test to check what they have learned, so check with staff to find out whether your child is deemed capable of cycling alone.
  • The same safety rules concerning visibility apply to the cycling child as to the pedestrian child.
  • Regularly check the condition of the child's bicycle so that he or she always sets off on the road with a flawless cycle (lighting system, brakes, correctly inflated tyres, audible bell, etc.).
  • Get the child used to automatically putting their helmet on before any bike ride, regardless of the distance.


Advice for drivers:

  • Children’s reactions are hard to predict, so it is important to be particularly attentive and to reduce your speed in areas surrounding schools and places frequented by lots of children.
  • Slow down immediately if you see a child on the side of the road; a few seconds later and you could actually hit them.
  • Avoid overtaking buses at bus stops as children (or indeed adults) may be crossing just in front of the bus and suddenly step out in front of you.
  • When overtaking children riding bicycles, always keep a distance of at least a metre between you and the child in case they should swerve suddenly.
  • Never perform a U-turn or any complicated manoeuvres close to schools or places frequented by lots of children.
 
The Automobile Club appeals to all road-users to exercise common sense and ensure that this advice is heeded right throughout the year, and not just at the start of the new school year, to ensure the safety and well-being of our children.

 
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