It is important to pay extra close attention to school zones while you are driving. While it is always important to stay alert, a school zone can be particularly busy with small children who don’t always look before crossing the street.

School is in session from September to June, and school zones are usually in effect Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm. Even if a school zone is not in effect, there may be small children or pedestrians in the area that you need to be aware of. Watch for posted signs indicating school zones, school crossings, pedestrian areas, bus stops, and high-traffic areas. Here’s what to know.

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School Zone Signs

Traffic signs are used to help keep drivers and pedestrians safe. It is especially important to pay attention to school zones and other pedestrian signs, since those are high-risk areas for devastating accidents. 

maximum km

Above is the most common school zone sign. School zone signs will always be fluorescent yellow or green. The lights will flash when the school zone is in effect, and you must follow the posted speed limit. Speed limits in school zones are generally 30-40 km per hour. You cannot pass another car in a school zone, even if they are going well below the posted speed limit.

sign board

These signs indicate school crossing. They do not always include flashing yellow lights. If you see a yellow sign with silhouettes of people, this indicates that you should be aware of pedestrians and small children crossing. Look for posted speed limit signs nearby and be vigilant as you drive. This sign gives pedestrians the right of way. 

pedestrian

This sign indicates an area with a lot of pedestrian traffic. It is a reminder to be aware of pedestrians and be ready to share the road with them. These are often present in neighbourhood areas near schools. 

school bus

This sign indicates a zone where school buses load or unload passengers. The school bus can unload passengers in these areas without using red flashing lights or a stop arm. If you see this sign, be prepared to stop and wait for the bus. Be aware of any children who may run out into the road. 

stop

This is another school bus loading sign. If you see this sign, look for a bus with flashing signals. In these areas, the bus will lower its stop arm and flash its red lights to indicate that you should stop. These are usually used on smaller roads or on highways with a centre median divider. 

These signs are posted on multi-lane highways with school bus loading zones. They indicate that traffic going in either direction must stop for the school bus when signal lights are flashing. 

This sign is a warning that there is a bus stop coming up, or a hidden bus stop around a corner. If you see this sign, slow down and drive cautiously. Be aware of children and watch for school buses with flashing red lights.

These signs indicate a bus entrance coming up on the right. If you see this sign, you will need to yield to any bus entering the roadway. 

This sign is a reminder to share the road with cyclists and other vehicles. It may be posted in high-traffic areas where the road narrows, or where there is a bike lane in a heavy-use area. Be especially cautious at night, and look for any flashing lights to indicate a cyclist. 

This is another sign to watch for while you are driving. While it is not specific to school zones, it indicates a pedestrian crossover. If you see one of these signs, be prepared to stop. This sign gives any pedestrian the right of way, and any automobile must stop and wait for the pedestrian to cross. 

Rules

When driving in a school zone or area with lots of pedestrians, it is the responsibility of the automobile driver to be aware of their surroundings. It is your responsibility to recognize school zones and be aware of school bus loading zones. School zones have significantly lower speed limits than other areas, and drivers must reduce their speed and give plenty of room for breaking between cars. 

While driving in a school zone, remember that children, crossing guards, and school buses always have the right of way. Be aware of cars that stop to unload or pick up their children.

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Never pass a school bus, especially if they have their lights flashing. You must stop at least 20 metres before the bus, giving children plenty of room to load and unload. Only start to move once the school bus has pulled away from the loading area. Remember that a bus full of kids may now be walking on the streets, and be on the lookout for any of them who need to cross. 

Fines

Nobody likes getting a fine or penalty when driving. While many people are guilty of distracted driving and speeding, rules are set to keep everyone safe, and fines are a good incentive to follow the rules. You should be aware that fines for violating traffic rules in a school zone can be up to 60% more expensive than fines in other areas. If you are going more than 20 km/hour over the speed limit in a school zone, you will accumulate demerit points

  • Failure to stop for a school bus: $400-$2000 and six demerit points
  • 10 km/hour over: $95
  • 20 km/hour over: $180 and 3 demerit points
  • 30 km/hour over: $450 and 4 demerit points
  • 40 km/hour over or more: $595 and 4 demerit points

If you have multiple school zone violations, you might accumulate more demerits, increased fines, or even jail time. A repeat offence of not stopping for a school bus can result in 6 months of jail time and fines up to $4,000. Safety in school zones should be taken very seriously. 

Demerit points will remain on your driving record for two years after your offence. If you are a new driver and accumulate 9 demerit points, you will lose your license for 90 days. More experienced drivers lose their license for 30 days after 15 demerit points. Driving with a suspended license could result in a 6 month suspension or jail time. 

Any traffic ticket can make your car insurance more expensive. However, speeding in school zones or construction zones have been known to increase your insurance premiums more than usual. Both law enforcement and insurance companies take school zone violations very seriously.  

School Zone Statistics

When you get in your car, you drive under the assumption that everyone will drive safely and follow the rules of the road. Unfortunately, statistics continue to show that dangerous driving behaviours are becoming the norm in many areas, including school zones.

According to Transport Canada, September is the most dangerous month for pedestrians. With school starting in September, people do not change their summer driving habits and fail to slow down in school zones. This results in more pedestrian fatalities occurring in September than in any other month of the year. 

In addition, 70% of Canadians report that they have seen other drivers speeding in school zones, and 60% report feeling that they have seen an increase in unsafe driving through school zones. Nearly 1 in 4 drivers report witnessing a near miss or a collision in a school zone, and more than half of these reports state that the accident involved a child. Half of Canadians say that they have seen someone on their phone or not paying attention while driving through a school zone. The most common unsafe behaviours reported in Canadian school zones include speeding, illegal parking, and distracted driving. 

Many people these days seem to be in a hurry to get where they are going. More people than ever are talking on their cell phones or even texting while driving, and the results are devastating. Paying attention and following school zone rules could make the difference between life and death for a pedestrian or small child crossing the road- something that will affect many lives, including yours. 

Make an extra effort to obey school zone signs, slow down, and pay attention. 

FAQs

Are school zones in effect during summer?

School zones are only in effect during school months. For most schools, this means September to June. Usually, flashing lights indicate when the school zone is in effect. Even if there are no flashing lights, many children tend to live in and play near school zones. Be cautious in any school zone area whether the zone is in effect or not.

Are school zones in effect on weekends?

School zones are not in effect on weekends, they only apply during school days, Monday through Friday. Be aware that some schools hold special events on the weekends, and children may still be present at the school on Saturdays and Sundays.

What color are pedestrian and school zone signs in Ontario?

School zones in Ontario can be identified by a yellow sign with two pedestrians walking together. Usually, there are also lights flashing when the school zone is in effect.

What is the speed limit in a school zone in Ontario?

In Ontario, the speed limit in a school zone is 30-40 km per hour. If someone drives slower than that, you must remain behind them. There is no passing allowed in a school zone.

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