POLL: Even With Reduced In-Class School Attendance, School Zone Traffic Safety Has Not Improved, Parents Report

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While more than one-quarter of Canadian elementary-school children are no longer travelling to school regularly this fall, a majority of parents report that school zone traffic congestion and driver behaviour has either worsened or not improved.

Those are just some of the findings of a national survey commissioned by Parachute, Canada’s national charity dedicated to injury prevention, and its Elementary Road Safety partner, Aviva Canada. This survey assesses the impact of COVID-19 public health measures on school attendance and school zone traffic safety issues.

While there are significant regional variations, 73 per cent of students nation-wide from preschool to Grade 8 are attending physical classes full time.

  • 34 per cent of parents have made notable changes to how the children get to-and-from school, with more students being driven by an adult or walking.
  • 71 per cent are now being driven to school, are part of a carpool or walking versus 45 per cent pre-COVID-19.
  • 20 per cent fewer are taking school buses or public transportation.

Those changes are driven by concerns around physical distancing and changes to the parent’s work schedule, in addition to the more-usual reasons of distance, convenience and scheduling.

The significant exceptions are Quebec, where 93 per cent of children are attending elementary school full time, and Atlantic Canada, where 85 per cent of children are still in the classroom. In both those regions, close to one third of children are getting to school by bus, compared with 13 per cent in Ontario and five per cent in B.C.

In Ontario, where last school year one-third of students walked to school (the highest rate in Canada), 20 per cent of parents have opted to keep their children home full-time for online education.

However, the reduced volume of students going to school buildings has not improved dangerous traffic situations around schools anywhere in the country. More than a quarter of those surveyed believe that traffic congestion has gotten worse around their schools, and 42 per cent say it’s remained the same.

Traffic congestion, along with drivers who speed, don’t obey traffic signs and back up dangerously, are seen as the biggest threats to children’s safety, the survey finds.

“These survey results are a good reminder that we have continue to have serious issues about safety in our school zones and we can’t lose sight of that, even in the times of a pandemic,” says Pamela Fuselli, President and CEO at Parachute.

“Road safety in-and-around elementary school zones remains a top priority and these survey findings point to an important need for society at large to continue to invest in road safety,” says Catherine Brown, Vice President Marketing and Corporate Social Responsibility at Aviva Canada. “Parents, teachers and community activists can download the Elementary School Guide to learn how to make their school zone safer.”

Active Transportation

The survey also asked parents who drive their children to school what measures would increase the likelihood their child would walk or cycle to school more frequently, a key pillar of improving school zone safety and reducing injury in the Elementary Road Safety program.

  • Only one quarter of the parents identified measures that would make walking to school more viable, such as less vehicle traffic around the school during pick-up and drop off and more traffic safety supervision such as police officers or crossing guards.
  • 41 per cent said none of the measures would encourage them to allow their children to walk or cycle.

“We want parents and communities across Canada to know that there are proven and effective ways to reduce the risk of injury to children in school zones, “says Fuselli. “For example, we can improve school zone safety by having fewer vehicles dropping off and picking up, making sure drivers follow the speed limits, and changing the road environment around the school.”

SOURCE Parachute

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