Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, back to school may look a little different this year.  It is important to ensure that those children that are returning to in-person classes take precautions whether traveling to school as a pedestrian, bicyclist, bus rider, passenger or a new driver.

The law firm of Cuming Gillespie Lawyers urges everyone to make safety a top priority for the new school year.  Unfortunately, unintentional injuries can occur in school hallways, playgrounds, around school buses and while travelling to and from school.  Parents, students, school staff and the community can all take part in keeping our children safe when school resumes.


Car Accidents

In order to prevent car accidents from occurring in and around school zones it is important for both parents and children to follow the school safety protocols in place when dropping off and picking up children from school.  Children can suffer from broken bones, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries and even death if they are involved in a motor vehicle accident.

Drivers should be reminded to obey the posted speed limits, avoid performing U-turns and pass other vehicles in a school zone and observe the designated drop-off and pick-up areas.  Double parking, parking in crosswalks, parking within 5 metres of a crosswalk, and not crossing at a crosswalk all create hazards and are all prohibited by law.

Pedestrian Accidents

With schools reopening, many children will be walking to and from school.  Injuries to pedestrians can be very serious and may lead to long-term physical and mental difficulties.  On average, more than 40 pedestrians are killed and over 1,250 are injured each year in Alberta.

If your child will be walking to school, here are a few safety tips to review with them prior to the first day of school.

  • Build familiarity with the route to school:  Go over a safe route to school and have your children practice walking the route before school begins.  Make special note of crosswalks, stop signs, and potential traffic hazards;
  • Safety in numbers:  Have your child walk to school with a sibling, friend, or neighbour;
  • Look all ways:  Remind your child to remain on the curb or sidewalk and look left, right, in front, and behind before crossing the street;
  • Obey all traffic lights:  Remind your child to never cross the street on a yellow or red light;
  • Hands-free is best:  It is important that your child remain hands-free while walking to and from school to avoid distractions from cell phones and gaming devices.  If your child is walking with their head down, they cannot see what is in front of them.  Also earphones prevent your child from hearing sirens or car horns; and
  • Always have an emergency plan in place:  Make sure your child knows what to do and who to contact if he/she gets lost or faces an emergency while traveling to or from school.  Ensure that your child has memorized a parent’s cell phone number and write down important numbers on the inside of their backpacks.

Bicycle Accidents

In Alberta, cyclists must obey all traffic laws and have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers of motor vehicles according to the Use of Highways and Rules of Road Regulation.

Parents should remind their children to ride in a single file, complete a shoulder check for vehicles, know how to use hand signals and watch for cars backing out of driveways and/or pulling onto roads. 

As we have previously blogged about, by law, every cyclist under the age of 18 must wear an approved helmet.  Helmets can reduce the risk of head injury.  It is a parent or guardian’s duty not to authorize or permit a person to ride a bicycle under the age of eighteen unless he/she is wearing a bicycle helmet. 

Playground Accidents

If your child’s school has a playground structure, it is likely that your child enjoys playing on the monkey bars, slides and swings.  Unfortunately, fractures or head injuries can result if a fall occurs. 

According to the Canadian Institute of Health Information, in 2014-2015 over 1800 children in Canada under the age of 18 required hospitalization due to a playground injury.  During these same years, there were 500 ER visits for brain injuries suffered on playgrounds by children under the age of 18.

Encourage your child to play safely while on the playground and not to engage in horseplay with other children while on the equipment.  You can also check with the school to ensure that there is appropriate supervision available to help prevent falls and injuries from occurring. 

Protect Your Teen Driver

Motor vehicle accidents involving teenagers tend to spike in September.  The start of the school year is a good time to remind your teen driver of the following safety rules to help prevent them from injuring themselves and others while driving.

  • No cell phones while driving;
  • No extra passengers;
  • No speeding;
  • No alcohol; and
  • No driving or riding without a seat belt.

Should anything go wrong this school year, know that the lawyers at Cuming Gillespie Lawyers are available to help.  If your child has been injured as a result of someone else’s negligence it is important to contact a qualified personal injury specialist as soon as possible for advice.  Our personal injury lawyers will guide you through the litigation process and help you obtain the compensation you deserve.  Please do not hesitate to contact the experienced and award winning personal injury lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie LLP online or at 403-571-0555.  Contact our office for a free consultation to determine how we can help you recover compensation for your injuries.