Driving Tips: Are you in the Zone?

Article by: Scott Marshall

Scott Marshall is Director of Training for Young Drivers of Canada.  He was a judge on the first 3 seasons of Canada’s Worst Driver on Discovery Network. Scott started writing columns on driving for his community paper since 2005.  Since then his columns have been printed in several publications including newspaper, magazines and various web-sites. You can visit his own blog at http://safedriving.wordpress.com

We’ve all heard of time zones, comfort zones and I’m sure even ‘The Twilight Zone’ may ring a bell with many people. Those phrases mean something to most of us but a zone that many people tend to ignore is a school zone. Many drivers tend to drive their normal way while passing through school zones without even thinking of the risks associated to them. Do you know where the school zones are that you drive through each day?

During the hours before school and after school drivers need to keep their speeds reduced while driving through school zones. There may even be some times between those hours that speeds need to be reduced, such as lunch breaks. School zones can be easily identified because of the signs and sometimes the flashing lights. However, there shouldn’t have to be warning signs and flashing lights to try to have drivers reduce their speed. The speed limit in most provinces is 30 km/h, except in Ontario where 40 km/h is the maximum speed limit in school zones.

Any time you’re driving through a residential area your speed should be reduced. Anywhere throughout Canada you’ll find the city speed is 50 km/h unless otherwise posted and that would also include residential streets, but’s that’s not always practical or safe. The faster you drive the longer it takes to stop your vehicle. In many residential areas you’ll be driving alongside parked vehicles and if a young child is distracted, they may run directly into your path without looking. If your speed is reduced to approximately 30 km/h, you’ll have more time to see the child and therefore more time to brake or honk to avoid them.

If you drive through school zones expecting a child to come onto the road, you’ll be ready to respond to them sooner. A good way to spot the child sooner is to have quick glances under vehicles well before you reach them. This allows you to spot their feet or bicycle wheels before they get into your path. Another thing you can do is to continually move your eyes from building to building to help you spot these kids before they reach the road. They get so distracted while playing or when they see their friends that they rarely notice any vehicles driving by.

I was recently driving through a residential area near a school when a young girl rode her bike onto the road directly in front of me. She came from in front of a minivan. The van blocked her view of me, but because my speed was reduced and I was looking from side to side, I was able to stop quite easily for her. What could have happened if I was traveling at 50 km/h like the speed limit suggested?

It’s time for each driver to expand the school zones into the entire residential area and not just near parks or schools. Our kids and their future depend on it.