Back to school tips from IAM RoadSmart following lockdown

With a phased return to school to begin in England from 8 March, IAM RoadSmart, the UK’s largest independent road safety charity, is reminding parents, carers, drivers and riders to be on full alert in the vicinity of schools.

With drop-off and collection arrangements likely to be staggered and some people only just returning to driving or riding after an extended period away from the roads, the need for vigilance around schools will be essential over the coming weeks. 

While arrangements for the phased re-opening from 8 March in England are being made by individual schools and local authorities, there are plenty of road safety tips that are relevant both to parents and carers driving children to school and those who are driving or riding nearby. Richard Gladman, IAM RoadSmart’s Head of Driving and Riding Standards has some advice on how to make sure it’s as safe as possible for all road users.

  • For parents and carers, take some time to check your vehicle and make sure it’s in good order well in advance of that first school run, particularly if it’s been stationery for a while during lockdown. Make sure you have enough fuel, check oil and water levels, look for defects, check the engine, tyres and, last but not least, you. Watch our basic vehicle checks video here. Make sure you clean your windscreen thoroughly; inactivity can cause a film to build up on it which will not come off with the wipers. Also remember to check your tyres carefully. You need to examine them for cuts or bulges and check the tread and pressure. For guidance on tyre safety, visit the Tyre Safe website here
  • Feeling nervous about being back out on the roads as you begin to drive children to school again after lockdown? Start off slowly to re-familiarise yourself with your vehicle and driving again. Even if it’s only been a few weeks since you last drove, you need to remind yourself about the importance of being fully engaged in your driving, vigilant and courteous to other road users. 
  • Has your usual route changed? With the introduction of pop-up cycle lanes and other initiatives to promote walking and cycling to keep public transport use to a minimum, check before you leave to avoid any difficulty.
  • Leave enough time. Setting off for school can be a frustrating and rushed experience at the best of times and your morning routine will almost certainly have been changed by the lockdown arrangements. Allow yourself enough time to get ready in the morning. A half-eaten breakfast and badly combed hair can put both you and your child in the wrong frame of mind for the start of the day.
  • Make sure everyone is in the right seat. If you use child or booster seats, make sure they are still fit for purpose and correctly secured. Check out Good Egg for some top tips: http://www.goodeggcarsafety.com/.
  • It may have been a while since your children have been out in the car. Pack for success. Dependent on the age of your little ones, take some healthy treats to distract them and keep them engaged, even on a short journey.
  • It’s not a race. In many areas with local schools the motto is ‘20’s plenty.’ Remember that this is the limit, not a target. Always help out the school crossing patrol. You’ll probably receive a friendly wave and smile for your assistance.
  • Setting a good example while in the driving seat teaches your children important road safety lessons that will stay with them in preparation for when they learn to drive. Make sure you park in a safe place and if you can, walk the last few metres to the school gates. It will not just help with congestion; it will also allow you to teach them the right way to cross a road, looking right and left (then right again for us Green Cross code users). Teaching children to use the road sensibly will save lives. 
  • The amount of traffic on the road and the mix of road users is likely to be different as a result of the government advice on the use of public transport. There are also likely to be more pedestrians and cyclists than before, so treat them the way you would want to be treated. It is important to give people the time and the space they need to use the road.

Richard said: “Traffic levels will be increasing as children return to schools. Cyclists and pedestrians have no airbags, crumple zones or seatbelts to protect them. By taking time to prepare for your back to school journey and remaining courteous and alert for other road users, you can be an ambassador for safer driving and riding.

“At the same time, all drivers – including those not on the school run – need to be vigilant for children getting out of cars, walking or cycling to school, possibly at unusual and unexpected times. After a longer than usual break from the school run routine, it’s more important than ever we all practice safe, courteous driving and riding.”