RSA Expert: We need to behave better when dropping our children to school
Our Road Safety expert urges parents in particular to take great care where they park
Something you hear quite a bit at this time of year is a collective groan at the increase in traffic on our roads, especially in towns and cities, as school time rolls around again.
While the extra traffic is a drag for anyone trying to get to work, busier roads mean more danger for children travelling to school - either by car, bus, cycling or walking.
Congestion at the school gates is a particularly serious problem, with parents often double parking, or parking on yellow lines to drop their children off.
The result is incredibly dangerous: small children weaving in and out of parked and moving cars at the school gate, many of whom are too small to be seen by drivers pulling in and out.
School buses are forced to let children on and off further away from the school because of the chaos at the entrance.
I would urge all parents to think twice before parking dangerously at the school gate.
We're all in a hurry, but you could be endangering the life of your child or another who is trying to get safely to school.
Plan your route carefully and make sure you leave with plenty of time so there is no reason to 'drop and dash'.
Make sure you wait until your child is safely inside the school gate. If in doubt about their ability to get in and out of school because of congestion, park safely further away and walk to the school with them.
If your child is old enough, they might want to walk or cycle to school. It's healthier.
It also helps reduce the chaos at the school gate.
It's great to see groups of children walking in a 'Green Schools' walking bus or cycling to school together.
But we must remember that a child doesn't develop the ability to recognise danger fully until they are about 11 or 12.
Adult supervision will be needed if walking until they have reached this age.
In the meantime, walking or cycling with your children to school is a great time to teach them about the rules of the road and important road safety lessons about walking, cycling, and sharing the road safely with others.
As the evenings get darker, you also can teach them the importance of wearing hi-viz gear and having lights on their bikes.
Some schools have adopted a policy to address the issue of school gateway congestion.
I would strongly encourage others to consider developing a policy around parents parking at the school gates.
If you are looking for some best practice examples look no further than Our Lady Queen of Peace in Limerick and Scoil Chlochair Mhuire in Carrigtwohill, Cork. Both have introduced safety initiatives for their children coming and going to school.
Both were presented with Leading Lights in Road Safety Awards because of their work and creativity in that area.
They both encouraged children to walk to school and developed creative ways of making sure children could have a system to travel safely.
These schools collaborated with the parents association, school board, teachers and school traffic warden.
What they did could be easily copied by other schools - in fact Charlie Bird worked with us this year to make a film about their work.
You can watch it on the RSA YouTube channel if you want to see their safety systems in action.
When ticking off the back-to-school checklist I'd like to ask parents to please consider adding bicycle helmets, bike lights and hi-vis vests or jackets to the school shopping lists to ensure children are safe.
This year, the RSA will team up with ESB Networks to distribute 85,500 high visibility vests to every child starting school this year.
As well as this teachers can log on to rsa.ie/backtoschool to order a range of educational resources and teaching aids for their pupils.