11 October 2018

Uganda: Driving Safely in School Zones

As a driver, you must understand the traffic laws for school zones and follow them at all times.

Ethically, the way you drive within or around school zones differs from the way you drive in other areas places. Much as most schools are always surrounded by perimeter walls, permanent or temporary, it does not mean that you drive the way you wish simply because you are rushing somewhere.

Reduce driving speed

Stuart Oramire, a motorist, says when he is picking his children from school, he always expects children to cross the road from any direction at any time and, therefore, drives at the lowest speed. "Regardless of whether there are humps in a school zone or not, I respect the law and drive below five kilometres per hour. I consider the fact that at any one time, a child might be crossing," Oramire explains.

Recognising school zones

For example, along Lugogo Bypass in Kampala, there are two schools: Kololo Secondary School and City High School. They are few metres apart and neighbour each other. Unfortunately, even when the students from the two schools have uniforms with shouting or bright colours, (white and maroon) you still find motorists driving past students as if it is a highway. This, according to Oramire is wrong.

"Almost all school zones are announced by numerous warning signs, flashing lights, and/or speed bumps. So, as a driver, you must stay alert and keep your eyes on the road at all times," Oramire advises.

Increase in traffic flow

Much as there is always increased traffic flow along major roads, traffic flow around and within school zones also tends to build up, especially during rush hours in the evening and morning.

"Most parents drive into or around the school within the same time. As a result, traffic flow builds up as cars become many. It takes about two hours for traffic to get back to normal. Such zones require you to be extra careful in the way you drive," says Diana Ankunda, a motorist and parent.

Increase in number of pedestrians

Charles Ssebambulidde, the spokesperson of the traffic directorate, observes that the number of pedestrians, especially students or pupils increases irrespective of what time it is around school zones. This means school zones are such busy places that if you do not reduce your speed, you put the lives of the pedestrians at risk.

Parental responsibility

"In school zones with many pedestrians crossing the road as and when they want, respect road marks such as zebra crossings and speed limit signs. If you maintain your high speed and you cause accidents, you will face the courts of law for injuries or deaths caused simply because of negligence that would have been avoided," Ssebambulidde cautions.

"As a parent, it is your personal responsibility to release your child's hand when they are stepping foot into the school gate or handing them over to a teacher but not nearer or outside school. If you just open the car door for them and ask them to cross on their own, it is parental carelessness of the highest level. Walk your child to the gate and ensure they are safely inside before driving off," Ssebambulidde adds.

Respect road signs

Some of the important road signs that you should not only read and respect include school ahead signs, humps ahead and zebra crossing signs. It is important that on reading these signs, you reduce the speed at which you drive for the safety of mainly pupils or students and for yourself.

It is also at this point that you need to avoid distractions from either passengers aboard your car or the phone and concentrate on the road.

Treat every child as your own

According to edmunds.com, an online portal, if you are a parent, keep in mind that even if your children are safely in school or in your vehicle, you still have to watch out for their classmates. You would want other parents to do the same for your children. The portal also advises you to make eye contact with the pedestrians within school zones.

"If you have not made eye contact with them (pedestrian), assume that they have not seen you and that they are just going to keep on going," says the portal.

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