Industry voicesHealth & Safety

Resolve car park chaos

Parents on the school run, student drivers, staff rushing to secure a space before the madness begins…

School car parks can be full of hazards. 

Check out the latest print issue of School News, here. 

Even when school car parks are low-speed environments, everyone adhering to the speed limit, children are still at risk of serious injury as they are such vulnerable pedestrians.

In fact, low-speed vehicle runovers in locations such as schools are responsible for too many tragic deaths and injuries.

Image courtesy of Area Safe

From 2001 to 2010, 29 child pedestrians were killed in what are deemed “non-traffic locations” outside of the home such as schools, universities, hospitals, prisons, factory premises and military camps where vehicles would be expected to be travelling at low speeds and performing low-speed manoeuvres. 

Reflecting on this data in its report, the Department of Infrastructure and Transport notes that such accidents occurred in places that were considered a “safe haven” for children.

That’s why, in car parks and anywhere on school grounds it is essential to have appropriate signage, clear road lines, speed bumps and other lifesaving safety measures in place. Bollards, barriers, and boom gates can all help control traffic too.

Clear signage and road markings are vital for: 

  • School zones, the areas around a school that enforce lesser speeds. 
  • Separating quick pick-up and drop-off areas where long-term parking is not permitted. 
  • Student driver parking areas.

Further speed control 

Speed bumps are an effective tool. Unlike signage, which might be missed or misread, speed bumps are designed to jolt and alert a speedy driver. Studies show speed bumps decrease the likelihood of accidents and they are especially effective in school car parks. 

Park your concerns: advice from the industry

The Area Safe Group consultant, Lindsay Stead has found that “poorly designed car parks are evident with two common mistakes”. He explains that these mistakes involve situations that are “mostly caused by lack of space”, including: 

  1. “Two-way traffic chaos, causing a higher risk of collision, driver frustration, delays, and congestion.” 
  2. “Student drop-off and pick-up zones located within a car park, as these increase the risk of pedestrians being hit by cars.” 

“Efficient car parks are safe car parks. Poorly designed car parks are evident with two common mistakes which are situations mostly caused by lack of space. 

Image courtesy of Area Safe

In order to avoid these pitfalls and improve existing carpark design to maximise safety and traffic flow, Lindsay says: “Car parks can be made safer and more efficient by implementing one-way traffic flow, safety fixtures, and where possible separating student drop-off zones from the general car park. Speed humps are an essential physical means of slowing cars down to avoid collisions with pedestrians. The slower a vehicle is travelling, the quicker it can stop in an emergency. At a car park speed of 10km/h, the stopping distance for a car is only 3m, compared to 26m at 40km/h.” 

For this reason, he says that “every high-risk zone should have speed humps installed” and these include “pedestrian crossings, building entrances, footpath crossovers, blind corners, and long driveways”.  

In addition: “Bollards are critical to protect students and staff from out-of-control vehicles, and modular pedestrian rails are an effective means of preventing pedestrians wandering into the path of traffic. The installation of safety convex mirrors can also help maximise visibility around blind corners.” 

Image courtesy of Area Safe

School-run strategies like allocated parking can also work wonders, according to Lindsay: “I fully agree with allocated parking for more orderly car parks. This can be achieved with signage and parking space protectors (fold-down bollards). The provision of bold, easy-to-see signage and stencils, impact protection bollards, designated waiting areas, including covered shelters with benches to ensure students are safe and dry while waiting to be picked up at the end of the day, all help to make car parks and drop-off zones safer places.” 

To improve staff parking on-site, Lindsay tells us: “Separate access gates work well for schools seeking to differentiate between parent/public entry and staff entry.” Meanwhile, “for sites with lack of space, building above the carpark helps to maximise the amount of parking available for staff that need it, and can help provide a separate space for safe drop-off zones”. 

Image courtesy of Area Safe

“Parking space protectors (fold-down bollards) are an effective means of controlling access to individual parking spaces too.” 

For schools trying to minimise pedestrians and cyclists in the car park, Lindsay adds that effective solutions include designated walkways, modular pedestrian barriers, kerbside drop-off zones and separate entry points. He notes that these, “in turn, help to minimise the risk of collisions between vehicles and pedestrians.

Rosie Clarke

Rosie is the managing editor here at Multimedia Pty Ltd, working across School News New Zealand and School News Australia. She has spent 10+ years in B2B journalism, and has spent some time over the last couple of years teaching as a sessional academic. Feel free to contact her at any time with editorial or magazine content enquiries.

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