Back to reading, writing, math – and road safety

Bells in over 300 Ottawa schools will soon be signaling the end of summer and the start of a new school year. Before opening the books and tablets for reading, writing and math, let’s review some road safety lessons to help get our kids to and from school safely.

Lesson 1 – School buses

Kids will be hopping on the bus to and from school once again, and drivers should be prepared for school buses to stop anywhere, anytime. If you are approaching a school bus with red lights flashing and the stop arm extended, do not pass it. Leave a safe distance between your vehicle and the bus, to provide enough space for the kids to cross the street. For roadways that don’t have a median, traffic must stop in both directions.

And remember, some buses are equipped with a camera that records any vehicle illegally passing the bus when stopped with red lights flashing and its stop arm extended.

Lesson 2 – Obey crossing guards

Ready for another school year, our 268 dedicated school crossing guards will be stationed at 245 locations during early mornings and late afternoons, when kids are travelling to and from school. When a guard enters the crosswalk with the raised stop sign in their hand, all motorists and cyclists must stop until pedestrians have crossed, and the guard lowers their stop sign at the curb. This also applies to drivers making right-hand turns.

Lesson 3 – Obey posted speed limits

When the summer ends, families are often quickly propelled back into busy daily schedules. Even though our schedules may be tight, obey all posted speed limits and don’t speed. As part of the automated speed enforcement program, speed cameras have been installed in select community safety zones to enforce speed limits near schools. Any vehicle speeding through these areas will be photographed and will get a ticket. There is a very simple way to avoid getting a ticket – just don’t speed. Slow down and help keep our communities safe. Think Safety, Act Safely!

Lesson 4 – Use safety and caution when walking to school

Always use a sidewalk when available and cross at intersections. Tuck your cell phone away. Wearing reflective and light coloured clothing at night, dawn and dusk helps drivers see you.

If you’re crossing at a non-signalized intersection:

  • Stop before stepping off the curb
  • Look in all directions and listen for traffic
  • Make eye contact with nearby drivers to be sure you are seen and indicate you are crossing
  • Cross when the roadway is safe and clear
  • Walk directly across the road – without running or cycling

If you’re crossing at a signalized intersection:

  • Wait for the walk signal before crossing
  • Even when you have the WALK signal, take a second to ensure vehicles are slowing down to stop before stepping out

ABCs of PXOs

Pedestrian crossovers (PXOs) are now common throughout Ottawa, helping pedestrians cross the road safely. PXOs are identified by specific signage and pavement markings, and some also have pedestrian activated flashing beacons. All motorists and cyclist must yield to pedestrians crossing a PXO.

If you’re a pedestrian:

  • Push the RRFB (Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon) button should PXO be equipped with one
  • Wait for traffic to stop
  • Make eye contact to ensure drivers see you before stepping off the curb

If you’re a cyclist or motorist:

  • Be prepared to stop for pedestrians
  • Stop behind the yield line
  • Make eye contact to ensure pedestrians see you
  • Wait until pedestrians exit the crosswalk before proceeding

Lesson 5 – Mutual respect of cyclists and motorists

Some students may be heading back to class by bike. Let’s ensure the school year stays safe for everyone by watching out for each other, whether you’re a cyclist or motorist.


  • When parking on the street, check your mirror and over your shoulder for any approaching cyclists – including right before getting out of your car
  • When passing a cyclist, maintain a minimum distance of one metre between them and your vehicle, where practical to do so
  • Always double check for cyclists approaching behind you before turning right


  • Wear high visibility clothing and always keep reflectors on your bike
  • Always wear a helmet; it can mean the difference between life or death
  • Signal to other road users when you are about to turn or stop
  • Wait for the green light at traffic signals and use the three yellow dots at intersection stop lines to ensure detection – Keep your wheels on the dots and your eyes on the lights until it turns green
  • Don’t ride on sidewalks and be courteous to pedestrians on pathways

Here’s to a fun, successful and safe school year. You can visit to learn more about community safety, cycling safety and the City’s Road Safety Action Plan.


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