Home » Advocacy » ERS Program Provides Research-Based Solutions to Create Safer School Zones
Valerie Smith

Valerie Smith

Director of Programs, Parachute

You may have experienced this at your elementary school — mornings are often a chaotic, dangerous mess. Perhaps the principal has resorted to being outside every school morning to direct traffic, trying to keep walking students safe from parents driving cars, who often flout traffic rules in their hurry to drop their kids off at school.

While no one wants any children to be injured, there are close calls, and it seems impossible to figure out how to change anything.

But thanks to the Elementary Road Safety program, created by Parachute, Canada’s national charity dedicated to injury prevention, and Aviva Canada, schools can understand the traffic safety challenges in their school zone, and how to address them.

We’re providing schools with tools and a methodology that leverages data to help make school zones across Canada safer for all.

“We’ve been very fortunate to work with Parachute and the Elementary Road Safety program, who have been an integral part of the planning and implementation of safety measures for our school,” says Gillian Cousineau, the vice-principal at Phoebe Gilman Public School in East Gwillimbury, ON. “We have an amazing team of staff, parents and community members who have worked together to brainstorm ideas to encourage safe practices within our school community.”

“With the Elementary Road Safety (ERS) program, we are providing schools with tools and a methodology that leverages data to help make school zones across Canada safer for all,” says Hazel Tan, Head of Corporate Responsibility at Aviva Canada.

These tools, available for free at Parachute, include:

• Site audit
• Driver and pedestrian behaviour study
• Audit measuring how students arrive at school
• Caregiver questionnaire

ers program slow down sign

At Phoebe Gilman, this research uncovered that a minority of students used “active transportation” such as walking or cycling to get to school. That meant the majority arrived by vehicles — even older students who could easily walk. Trained observers documented drivers ignoring do-not-enter signs and U-turning. The school had designated parking areas and a “kiss and ride” drop-off point, but drivers would double park, or stop in “kiss and ride” and take their kids to the school door, against the principle of a drop-off point.

The school’s ERS committee, supported by road safety experts at Parachute, considered what interventions would be effective to address these issues and improve their school zone safety.

In this instance, the school is installing speed bumps to slow traffic, promoting Walking Wednesdays to encourage more children to walk to school, and installing signs along popular walking routes showing how far the school is in minutes when biking or walking, encouraging students to walk/roll to school.

parachute toolkit infographic
Available for free at Parachute

Phoebe Gilman was one of the first schools to join ERS. Thirteen other schools across Canada are now in various stages of the intensive ERS program, which includes a $10,000 grant from Aviva Canada to make infrastructure changes and support community engagement — two more in Ontario, two in New Brunswick, four in Nova Scotia and, starting in September, five Saskatchewan schools, including four in First Nations communities.

“The ERS program demonstrates that the most effective approach is to take time to really understand what’s causing morning and after-school traffic congestion and danger at any given school,” says Pamela Fuselli, President and CEO of Parachute. “Any school can take on this process, using our free resources, that also include research on proven, effective interventions and ways to promote school zone safety in your community.”

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