Back to school safety tips for drivers and students

A school bus is seen in this undated file photo.

Essex County Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) is reminding drivers students across Essex County are heading back to school next week.

For drivers, that means maintaining a heightened level of awareness for students getting on or getting off a school bus or when travelling near or through a school zone.

A distraction of a split-second can be enough to cause a devastating collision.

Drivers may encounter school buses and increased traffic on their morning or afternoon commutes so they should take that into consideration where timing what time to leave the house.

Drivers are also reminded to slow down when you see a school bus and give it plenty of space, as it could come to a stop at any time.

Remember, failing to stop for a stopped school bus that has its flashing red lights engaged is a serious offence. For a first-time offence, you can be fined from $400 to $2,000 and have six demerit points added to your license.

Ontario, school bus drivers and other witnesses can report vehicles that have illegally passed a school bus. If you are the vehicle's registered owner, these same fines may be applied to you.

Parents are also encouraged to talk with your children about being safe when going and coming from school. Here are a few reminders for students:

Cyclists under the age of 18 are required to wear a helmet by provincial law. Cyclists should also wear bright, reflective clothing to enhance their safety. Cyclists must obey the same rules of the road as all other vehicles.

Pedestrians and those on scooters should stay on sidewalks and where there are none, they should be walking on the left side of the road facing traffic as far off onto the shoulder as possible. Both pedestrians and cyclists should make use of the crossing guards who will be returning to their posts to help our children get safely across the road.

Essex County OPP will have enhanced high visibility patrols around school zones throughout the coming weeks to ensure drivers and students are following the rules of the road and exercising the appropriate level of caution and care.