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New road safety guide puts the focus on school communities

A new road safety guide for New South Wales aims to improve motoring habits around school zones by targeting a variety of potential problem areas. Minister for Roads and Freight Duncan Gay launched the guide in a letter to principals of 2,500 primary schools across NSW earlier this month.

Titled 'Road Safety Issues Around Schools', the guide sets out a number of key points for motorists to remember when driving in or around schools. While the principles of the guide are aimed specifically at parents, the safe driving habits they outline can be applied to any NSW driver who may come across a school zone.

According to a report published on the Motor Accidents Authority website, every day sees over 1 million children in NSW travelling to and from school and the main travel times are between 7.30 am - 9.30 am and 2.30 pm - 5.00 pm.

The NSW Auditor-General's 2010 report into this same issue found that the number of road crash casualties involving school-aged pedestrians between 5 and 16 years declined between 1998 and 2008. However, even with the use of appropriate warning signs and speed cameras, many motorists continued to go over the 40km/hour speed limit set in school zones.

The 2014 road safety guide for school communities aims to create a positive impact by targeting specific problem areas.

"Any incident involving one of our children deeply affects our school communities and the families that are part of them," said Mr Gay in a statement.

"The recent incidents during school zone hours highlight the need for all of us to commit to taking every step possible to reduce the risk to our children."

Tips for safer driving around school zones

According to the road safety guide, one of the key areas is driving near school buses. Any traffic passing by a school bus that is releasing or picking up children is limited to a speed of 40km/hour.

This applies to all vehicles moving in the same direction as the bus, and it holds whether or not the bus is idle, stopped or moving. The rear red wig wag lights on the bus serve as a reminder for all motorists to slow down to the 40km/hour speed limit. These should be obeyed whenever you see them flashing.

The speed limit is in operation on all gazetted school days, even if you don't see any children around. Most zones will operate in the busy periods of early morning and late afternoon.

For drivers passing by or parking near a school, it's important to be extra vigilant and more aware of your surroundings. Slow down if you're nearing a school crossing and follow the directions of the crossing supervisor if there is one.

In a school zone, it's imperative to give way to any pedestrians first, and any potentially dangerous manoeuvres such as a U-turn or three-point turn should also be avoided around schools. This is especially important during the busy times of drop off in the morning and pick up in the afternoon.

Drivers are liable to receive a penalty and/or demerit for infringing on any of these rules, so it pays to keep an eye on how you're driving as you pass through school zones.