Two girls holding hands as they climb steps to go back to school.
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Back to School 2023: The Definitive Guide For Safety Tips For Parents, Students & Drivers in The Maritimes

Table of Contents

Your Child’s Safety Should Be Everyone’s Concern

As summer wanes and the back-to-school buzz picks up, a critical concern takes center stage – road safety for Canadian students. With young pedestrians resuming their school routines, it’s our collective duty as drivers and pedestrians to ensure their safety. In this all-encompassing guide, we’ll dive deep into Canadian road safety statistics, potential hazards, and provide an extensive array of detailed tips to guarantee a secure journey for our young scholars.

Identifying Potential Hazards:

To comprehensively address road safety, it’s imperative to identify potential hazards that children might face:

  1. Distracted Driving: The menace of distracted driving remains pervasive. Drivers engrossed in phones, navigation, or conversations pose a grave threat to young pedestrians. Alarmingly, a survey by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) found that a quarter of Canadian drivers admit to using phones while driving.

  2. Complex Intersections: Intersections and crosswalks stand as crucial points where drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians converge. Children’s impulsive behavior may lead them to dart into the street unexpectedly. Canadian data underscores that pedestrian injuries peak around these intersections.

  3. School Bus Safety: While school buses are generally safe, children remain vulnerable while boarding or alighting. Notably, provinces like Ontario have enacted the ‘Stop for School Buses Act’ to counter instances of drivers ignoring school bus stop signs.

Children lined up and getting on a school bus
While school buses are generally safe, children remain vulnerable while boarding or alighting.

In-Depth Road Safety Tips:

For a comprehensive approach, here’s how parents, drivers, and pedestrians can actively contribute to a safe back-to-school season:

For Drivers:

  • Respect Speed Limits: Adhere rigorously to posted speed limits, especially within school zones and residential areas.
  • Eliminate Distractions: Prioritize driving attentively; avoid distractions such as phones and multitasking.
  • Pedestrian Priority: Always yield to pedestrians at crosswalks, intersections, and pedestrian crossovers.
  • Maintain Safe Following Distance: Allow a safe distance between your vehicle and the one in front to ensure you can stop safely if needed.
  • Observe School Bus Signals: Be cautious and stop when school bus lights are flashing and its stop arm is extended.


Crosswalk Safety for Kids: 6 Key Points

  1. Use Designated Crosswalks: Always cross at marked crosswalks with traffic signals or signs.

  2. Look, Listen, Wait: Stop at the curb, look left, right, left again, listen for traffic, and wait for a safe gap.

  3. Obey Traffic Signals: Follow pedestrian signals; green means go, red means stop.

  4. Hold Hands: Younger children should hold an adult’s hand while crossing.

  5. Stay Visible: Wear bright or reflective clothing in low visibility conditions.

  6. Avoid Distractions: Keep electronic devices and toys away while crossing.

For Parents:

  • Accompany Young Children: Walk with young children until they exhibit the skills to navigate independently.
  • Educational Approach: Educate children about road safety norms, the importance of using crosswalks, and waiting for crossing guards.
  • Teach Safe Street-Crossing Skills: Show children how to judge safe gaps in traffic, when to make eye contact with drivers, and how to cross safely.
Image of children on a school bus smiling
It is very important for students to follow proper school bus etiquette.

School Bus Etiquette:

School Bus Etiquette: Navigating Safely and Respectfully

School buses play a vital role in transporting students to and from school. To ensure a safe and smooth experience for everyone, it’s important for students to follow proper school bus etiquette. Here are the key points to keep in mind:

  1. Arrive Early: Be at the bus stop a few minutes before the scheduled time. This ensures you’re ready to board when the bus arrives.
  2. Wait Safely: While waiting for the bus, stand at least three giant steps away from the curb. This distance helps prevent accidents.
  3. Line Up Orderly: Form a line as the bus approaches, and wait for the driver’s signal before boarding. This avoids crowding and ensures a smooth entry.
  4. Seat Assignments: If your bus has assigned seats, follow them accordingly. This helps the driver keep track of all passengers and maintain order.
  5. Stay Seated: Once on the bus, find a seat quickly and remain seated throughout the journey. Keep the aisle clear to ensure safe passage.
  6. Use Inside Voices: Maintain a quiet and respectful environment on the bus. Use inside voices to ensure the driver can concentrate and everyone can have a peaceful ride.
  7. Follow Driver’s Instructions: Listen to the driver’s instructions at all times. They are responsible for your safety and well-being during the bus ride.
  8. No Bullying or Harassment: Treat fellow students with kindness and respect. Bullying, teasing, or any form of harassment is unacceptable and can lead to serious consequences.
  9. Keep Hands and Objects Inside: Keep your hands and belongings inside the bus at all times. This prevents accidents and maintains safety.
  10. Exiting Safely: When your stop approaches, gather your belongings before the bus arrives. Wait for the bus to stop completely before standing up. Exit in an orderly manner, using the handrail.
  11. Stay Visible: If you need to cross the street after exiting the bus, make sure you are visible to the driver. Wait for the driver’s signal before crossing and follow proper pedestrian rules.
  12. Be Patient: Buses might encounter delays due to traffic or other factors. Stay patient and avoid rushing to or from the bus.
  13. No Eating or Drinking: Eating or drinking on the bus can lead to messes and distractions. Keep food and beverages packed away.
  14. Report Issues: If you encounter any problems or concerns while on the bus, inform a trusted adult, school staff member, or your parents.

Remember, following school bus etiquette not only ensures your safety but also contributes to a pleasant and respectful environment for all passengers. By practicing these guidelines, you help create a positive experience for everyone on the bus.

School Bus Safety Video

Printable School Bus Safety Colouring Book

Download this Printable School Bus Safety Colouring Book To Teach Your Child About School Bus Safety

Click the image to download the PDF file.

A school bus safety colouring book
Click the image to download the colouring book. Source:

Cycling Safety:

  • Helmet Crucial: Ensure children wear helmets properly fitted while cycling.
  • Hand Signals: Teach accurate hand signals for turns and stops to communicate intentions effectively.
  • Follow Traffic Rules: Teach children to obey traffic rules while cycling and to ride in the same direction as traffic.
Young boy buckled in his seat with a seat-belt and looking out the window.
Choose child seats based on age, weight, and height recommendations.

Child Seat Safety:

Were you aware that utilizing a suitable child safety seat correctly can lead to a 70% reduction in the likelihood of your child sustaining injuries, as opposed to children of similar ages who are restrained by seat belts?**

  • Age-Appropriate Seats: Choose child seats based on age, weight, and height recommendations. Infants should use rear-facing seats, toddlers forward-facing, and older children booster seats.
  • Secure Installation: Ensure child seats are correctly installed using seat belts or the LATCH system.
  • Harness Tightness: Keep the harness snug – you should only be able to fit one finger between the harness and your child’s collarbone.
  • Regular Checks: Regularly inspect child seats for proper installation and any signs of wear or damage.
  • Replace Old Seats: Replace child seats that have been involved in a crash or have exceeded their expiration date.


Seat-Belt Safety

Using an adult seat belt prematurely can expose children to risks such as head, neck, spinal cord, and internal organ injuries. Ensure your child receives adequate support from the head to the tops of their ears.

Your child can safely transition to using a seat belt if:

  1. They measure at least 145 cm (4 feet 9 inches) in height.
  2. Your child’s knees comfortably bend over the edge of the seat while sitting fully against the backrest.
  3. The lap belt rests snugly and low across their hip bones.
  4. The shoulder belt runs across their chest, maintaining a position between the neck and shoulder.
  5. Your child can sustain this posture comfortably throughout the entire journey without slouching.

Remember, until your child meets all five criteria mentioned above, continue utilizing a booster seat for their safety. Additionally, note that while your child might meet these requirements in one vehicle, they might still require a booster seat in another. Prioritizing these guidelines ensures your child’s protection during every ride.

Booster Seat Safety

  • Verify Canadian Approval: Before use, confirm that your car seat is approved for Canadian standards. Locate the National Safety Mark on the car seat or booster seat as an indicator.
  • Follow Height, Weight, and Age Limits: Pay careful attention to labels and instructions. Ensure your child’s height, weight, and age fall within the recommended limits for the seat’s safe usage.
  • Evaluate Secondhand Seats: If your seat is secondhand, ensure all components, including the instruction booklet, are present. If the booklet is missing, reach out to the manufacturer for a replacement copy.
  • Check Crash History: If your car seat has been involved in a previous crash, its safety may be compromised. If you lack the crash history, it’s best to consider a replacement for safety assurance.
  • Stay Informed about Recalls: Stay proactive by checking Transport Canada’s website for any potential recalls associated with your car seat. Staying informed about recalls is essential for your child’s safety.
  • Mind the Expiry Date: Remember that all car seats and booster seats come with an expiration date. Check the date on your seat to ensure its validity. If uncertain, don’t hesitate to contact the manufacturer for clarification.

Prioritizing these steps ensures that your child’s car seat is in optimal condition and adheres to safety standards, offering the protection they deserve during every journey.

Get even more tips for your child at:

The Canadian Road Safety Landscape:

A profound understanding of road safety challenges is paramount to safeguarding Canadian students:

  1. Pedestrian Injuries: Transport Canada reports that pedestrian injuries remain a top cause of hospitalizations for children aged 5 to 14. Shockingly, in 2019, over 1,200 reported pedestrian casualties involved children from this age group. These statistics underscore the pressing need for heightened awareness and education on road safety.

  2. Child Fatalities: Tragically, road accidents continue to be a major contributor to child fatalities in Canada. The Canadian Pediatric Society’s study highlights pedestrian incidents as a significant factor in these tragic occurrences.

While specific regional data regarding school bus injuries is unavailable due to the limited occurrence of such incidents, concerns about injuries to children involving school buses are significant, particularly in Atlantic Canada. Injuries that take place in the vicinity of school buses are of grave concern. Notably, the most critical risk of fatality associated with school buses pertains to situations where children are outside the bus, rather than within it.

The Numbers:

  • The primary risk of fatality concerning school buses is when children are situated outside the bus. Annually, approximately three Canadian children sustain fatal injuries after being struck by a school bus. The frequency of such incidents varies from year to year, averaging about one child passenger fatality every 2-3 years.
  • Regarding hospitalizations, the highest number of injuries occurs when children are inside the bus. Every year in Canada, an average of 250 children aged 14 or under are hospitalized due to incidents related to riding in a school bus.
  • Additionally, around 31 Canadian children suffer injuries as pedestrians who have been struck by a school bus.
  • Furthermore, data indicates that 1% of all road collisions involve buses, encompassing school buses within this category.
  • According to Transport Canada’s report from 2019, students are approximately 80 times more inclined to reach school safely when they opt for school bus transportation over traveling by car.
  • The data also reveals that school bus-related fatalities constitute less than 0.1% of the total traffic fatalities in Canada.
  • Analyzing the span from 2009 to 2018, which covers a decade, there was merely a single reported instance of a school bus passenger fatality on Canadian roads.


Canadian Fatalities and Injuries by Age Group – 2021
Age Group (yrs)FatalitiesSerious InjuriesInjuries (Total)
0 – 415701,248
5 – 14422364,055
15 – 19947289,399


Conclusion: As the new school year commences, let’s make a collective commitment to prioritize the safety of Canadian students on their journey to knowledge. Road safety requires concerted efforts from drivers, pedestrians, and parents. By immersing ourselves in statistics, recognizing potential hazards, and wholeheartedly embracing the meticulously detailed safety tips provided, we can cultivate a road environment that nurtures the future leaders of our nation. Remember, a secure journey paves the way for a successful destination.

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