As Manitoba students excitedly return to their classrooms, concern hangs over many parents in the province. Speeding and traffic buildup have been the top worries when it comes to road safety near schools, according to a recent study from CAA Manitoba and DIG insights, 94 percent of parents are worrying about safety in school zones.

The study, conducted in May 2023, surveyed 613 Manitoba parents and guardians with children in kindergarten to grade 8. An overwhelming 94 percent of respondents expressed at least one concern related to safety in school zones. The top three concerns cited were drivers exceeding speed limits (32 percent), traffic congestion in and around school zones (30 percent), and a shortage of street and school parking (26 percent).

“We want to remind motorists that they need to be extra vigilant as students return to school this week,” said Ewald Friesen, manager of government and community relations at CAA Manitoba. “Kids will be excited to see their friends and teachers and may fail to check their surroundings before stepping out onto the street.”

To address these concerns, many parents opt to drive their children to school, unintentionally adding to traffic buildup. CAA Manitoba encourages families to explore other modes of transportation.

“Things like walking, biking and skateboarding are great exercise and lots of fun, and fewer cars will help alleviate parents’ concerns,” said Friesen.

The study also revealed that parents desire additional solutions to enhance school zone safety. Approximately 26 percent of parents support improved road infrastructure around schools, while 21 percent want increased police enforcement. Suggestions also include more crossing guards and enhanced road safety education for both parents and students.

CAA's School Safety Patrol program is doing its part, with patrols wearing bright yellow-lime vests, these trained patrols help pedestrians safely cross the streets, ensuring protected conditions for all.

“Helping to keep school zones safe for everyone is the primary goal of CAA’s School Safety Patrol program,” says Friesen. 

CAA Manitoba offers helpful back-to-school safety tips for drivers, including obeying speed limits in school zones, following school bus rules, choosing safe drop-off and pick-up locations, making eye contact with pedestrians, and watching for CAA School Safety Patrollers.

If you don't follow these rules, it can result in fines and demerits, with passing a school bus with lights on and a stop sign carrying a $673 fine and five demerits. Speeding in a school zone incurs a minimum $200 fine and two demerits.

Stats Canada tells us that in 2022, around 183,000 students were enrolled in about 700 K-12 schools in Manitoba. It is crucial for all community members, especially drivers, to take responsibility for the safety of children and keep these school zones safe.