Many people who commute to work by car breathe a sigh of relief when the school holidays start. School holidays mean much quieter roads during rush hour, making getting to the office far less stressful, thanks to there being fewer motorists to contend with.

What do the figures say?

According to car insurance specialists Elephant, the average commuter knocks 12 minutes and 7 seconds off his/her morning commute every day as a result of the kids being off school. This adds up to over an hour a week during the school holidays. Add on the time saved during the homeward commute and that’s a decent amount of time to claim back for yourself during these quieter periods.

The Elephant study showed that Londoners save the most time during the school holidays, reducing their morning commute by an average of 16 minutes. Those in Northern Ireland come second at 13 minutes and 30 seconds, while the West Midlands comes third, with drivers saving an average of 12 minutes and 50 seconds.

Road safety outside schools

The Sutton Trust reports that around 20% of traffic on the road during rush hour is school traffic. As such, it’s not surprising that when schools are closed for the holidays, the roads are a lot less busy, while the start of a new school year leads to a sudden surge in congestion.

With so many parents dropping their children off at school at the same time, road safety around these drop off points can be an issue. This is a particular concern if the school is on a main road that commuting drivers also use.

Many schools seek to put preventative measures into place to make the roads safer for everyone. Popular measures include installing CCTV, asking parents to volunteer for parking patrols, and running campaigns to raise awareness. However, one project in South London has come up with a more creative solution to this issue.

Action urgently required

Following twelve collisions over four years outside Richard Atkins Primary School, four of which involved children under 10 years old, it was clear that something needed to be done to make the area safer for pedestrians and drivers.

With the help of the London Borough of Lambeth, cycling and walking charity Sustrans created a shared space style environment. Space was taken from vehicles and given to pedestrians, and a chicane style layout was put in place using planters, trees, and bike stands.

In addition to this, parking spaces were removed, and the speed limit was lowered to 20mph. These measures were put into place to deter drivers from using the road as a cut-through, as it would no longer make their journey quicker.

The changes encouraged a drop in the number of HGVs that use the road, making it far safer and easier for parents and carers to cross the road with their children.

Sometimes, this ‘out of the box’ thinking is what we need in order to tackle issues of road safety, particularly as the school term starts once again. More creative solutions can sometimes be the answer to important safety concerns.

How to have a stress-free school run

If you’re dreading starting the school run again, or commuting to work once the traffic increases in September, there are steps that you can take to make your journeys more bearable. These five top tips should help you to enjoy calmer journeys, at the same time as avoiding aggravating your fellow drivers:

  • Don’t speed up behind people at traffic lights and sacrifice your braking distance in the hope of rushing across right behind them before the lights change.
  • Try to avoid driving slower than the speed limit, provided safety permits – dawdling can really irritate people who have somewhere to be in a hurry.
  • When you finally get to the school car park, make sure that you don’t take up two spaces.
  • If you can’t find a parking space, don’t leave your car somewhere illegal where it causes a hazard. Double yellow lines are there for a reason!
  • If you have to use the motorway, never hog the middle lane and don’t take slip roads late to avoid the traffic queuing at the exit – cutting in at the last minute is a dangerous practice for you and the drivers around you.

Although the school run can be a hassle, driving safely and considerately means that parents and commuters can share the roads and get to their destinations feeling stress-free.

What impact does school term-time traffic have on your commute? What more can we do to tackle the congestion that the start of a new school year creates? Leave a comment below to let us know your thoughts.

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