Police stress safety on the roads ahead of back to school

With students heading back to the classroom this coming week across Simcoe Muskoka, police are reminding motorists, and young pedestrians themselves, to take extra care out on the roadways.

After a year that saw much of in-person learning cancelled, keeping students at home, Barrie police say they expect a more significant adjustment than usual to the return to school.

"The kids have been out of the school for eight months if you really look at the math," says Constable Dong Langdon of the Barrie Police Traffic Unit. "Now that everyone's back out and going back to school and having in-person classrooms, the pedestrian traffic is going to explode starting on Tuesday, and motorists have to be aware that there's going to be a lot more people using the roadway other than them."

The speed limit in Barrie is predominantly 50 km/h. However, in community safety zones, that is dropped to 40 km/h while students are in class. Langdon says all students crossing the street must do so at the proper locations and use the light signals if available.

"What motorists have to be aware is we will be out fully enforcing," says Langdon. "Every September we get out there, our entire traffic unit's out there with the mandate that we want to keep our students safe. We are going to enforce."

With school buses returning to the roadways, Langdon says motorists must abide by the proper regulations.

The officer tells CTV News the four-lane Dunlop street is often a source of trouble for traffic officers, saying many drivers on the outer lanes don't feel they need to stop.

"When you are behind a school bus, expect it to stop," says Langdon. "Expect the flashing stop signs to come out. You cannot pass a school bus when the lights are flashing, and the stop sign's extended, and that goes for all lanes of traffic."

For those students who choose to bike to school, Langdon stresses following the essential safety tips. All bicycle riders must be wearing their helmet, be using a bell or horn and have a reflector to increase visibility.

Langdon says those cyclists who use the roadway must be riding with traffic at the outermost right edge of the road.

"Motorists have to be aware that bicycles are going to fly through crosswalks," says Langdon. "As you pull up to a crosswalk, and you think the way is clear, take an extra look because kids on bicycles like to ride fast, and next thing you know, a bicycle is in front of you."