Back to school time calls for diligence on the roads

Island youth will soon be congregating in groups along the highways and byways of Manitoulin as they wait for buses to collect them for in-person classes, while hordes of excited young people living closer to school will be making their way across busy intersections. This is a time which calls for a greater vigilance on the part of drivers as they approach groups of children, crosswalks and stopped school buses.

This is particularly true of pick-up time for students, especially between 1 pm and 4 pm when and where parents are collecting their children from our schools.

As most parents or drivers can attest from experience, children are not the most attentive when it comes to road safety. They are kids and it kind of goes with the territory. But drivers are adults and a big part of “adulting” is paying attention while driving.

Sadly, human beings are not well designed for paying attention to things they do every day. Many of us have our minds on a plethora of things other than the road and the people on the sides of it when driving. Studies have repeatedly shown that the design of our roads doesn’t help the situation because they are actually constructed to be as “idiot proof” as possible. While this allows drivers to enthusiastically drum the steering wheel in rhythm to their favourite tunes on the radio, or to offer agitated counterpoint to talk radio pundits with differing views from their own, it does not help when it comes to paying attention to the road and to driving.

Neurologists explain that drivers utilize the part of their brain in the back that deals with automatic and repetitive tasks instead of the “thinking part” in the frontal cortex, thanks to road designs created to make driving easier. If this was not the case, most drivers would collapse in mental exhaustion even navigating a normal commuting drive.

Unfortunately, that means drivers don’t assign enough attention to what they are doing when driving—even though hurtling down the road in large metal monsters at lethal speeds alongside our most precious commodity—our children.

Taking responsibility is the adult thing to do and, collectively, it behooves us all to force our minds into mindfulness when travelling along roadways likely inhabited by school children. It isn’t easy. It should be, but the truth is it isn’t. Human genetic composition works against it.

But the thing about human beings is we can and should have the capacity to override those counter social predispositions that are foisted upon us by genetic mechanics.

So, stay alert, be aware and let’s get all our children home safe from school. Treat every roadway or street as a “Community Safety Zone,” even ones not posted as such.