Elementary Road Safety Program brings big improvements to schools

Safety signs warning for pedestrians in a school zone


In 2019, St. Stephen Catholic School had a school zone safety problem.

Administrators and parents at the Ottawa-area school were concerned about unsafe driving behaviours in the school parking lot during drop-off and pick-up. They worried about the speed at which vehicles raced by the school. And they wanted to do something about the vehicle congestion around the school zone and encourage students to use active transportation.

What a difference a couple of years – and dedicated support and funding – can make.

St. Stephen was one of three schools chosen to participate in the inaugural cohort of the five-year Elementary Road Safety (ERS) Program offered by Aviva Canada and Parachute, a national charity dedicated to injury prevention. 

With support from Parachute and $10,000 from Aviva, the ERS program has already made some transformational safety improvements at St. Stephen’s, including:

  • Forming an ERS leadership team composed of school and municipal officials and parents to collect baseline data, identify key school zone safety concerns and create an action plan to make it safer.
  • Closing off the parking lot to everyone except staff, reducing unsafe driving behaviours and encouraging less driving and more walking/rolling to school.
  • Smoother flow of traffic and to reduce congestion.
  • Installing a new ‘school crossing warning’ sign in the community and a new speed feedback board in front of the school to show drivers their approaching speed and encourage them to SLOW DOWN in the school zone.

“When we launched the Elementary Road Safety Program with Parachute in 2019, our goal was to bring safer school zones to communities that need it most. We wanted to empower communities and schools to identify and address risks to children traveling to and from school and make tangible physical environmental changes to improve road safety in school zones,” said Hazel Tan, Head of External Communications and Corporate Responsibility at Aviva Canada.

“The changes at St. Stephens exemplify the kind of success we had envisioned. With the support of Parachute, the school’s ERS team worked hard to identify school zone challenges and has come up with actionable interventions that will make a big difference in their community.”

A second school that has implemented the ERS program is Phoebe Gilman Public School in East Gwillimbury in Ontario.  Their leadership team has collected baseline data, identified key road safety concerns and outlined strategies. So far, they’ve implemented a right-turn only exit strategy from their Kiss and Ride area to ensure a smoother flow of traffic. And later this summer, improvements are on the way to increase pedestrian awareness in the Kiss and Ride, as well as wayfinding signs on popular walking and biking routes to encourage active transportation.

A third school, St. Stephen Catholic Elementary School in Vaughan, joined the ERS program in October 2020. Their community leadership team is currently brainstorming interventions to address their school zone safety issues.

“Parachute is excited and proud to see the progress of our three inaugural ERS schools so far. Despite the challenges of this past year, our team has worked closely with each school community. The school communities have put in the time and effort to come together and address key road safety issues in their school zone through tailored and thoughtful interventions,” said Pamela Fuselli, President and CEO at Parachute.

“Parachute and our ERS schools remain committed to further improvements and ultimately reaching the goals of increasing active transportation levels and through changes in the environment that positively impact driver behaviours in school zones.”

Introducing the next six schools

The ERS program is expanding to six additional schools:

  • Bedford South Elementary School, Bedford, NS
  • Sackville Heights Elementary School, Sackville, NS
  • Kingswood Elementary School, Hammonds Plains, NS
  • Bridgewater Elementary School and Junior High, Bridgewater, NS
  • King Street Elementary School, Miramichi, NB
  • Priestman Street Elementary, Fredericton, NB

All ERS program recipients will receive step-by-step guidance, resources and a $10,000 grant that go toward school improvements. They’ll also have access to a dedicated ERS project manager to support them every step of the way.

How to bring ERS to your school

Aviva and Parachute have developed a digital version of the Elementary Road Safety Guide that equips community members anywhere in Canada with tools to tackle and address school zone safety issues locally. 

“Even small changes can create major impact and prevent child death and injury. We invite Canadians to download the guide and start making changes in their community today,” said Tan.

The content in this article is for information purposes only and is not intended to be relied upon as specific professional or expert advice. Aviva Canada accepts no responsibility for action taken as a result of reliance on any information contained in this article.