School run traffic is a menace for parents and general road users alike.
56% of parents we interviewed reported traffic chaos near their child's school at dropping off and picking up times. And 91% of these parents claim there isn’t an effective school traffic management plan in place nearby.
Like it or loathe it, the school run's here to stay. If you're struggling with it, here are some alternatives to make your journey quicker and easier - and ease congestion for other road users.
Why is the school run traffic so problematic?
Despite reports of traffic chaos, there's little evidence of parents giving up on the school run or children walking or cycling to school.
In 2017, travel by car was the usual mode of travel to school for around a third (34%) of children in England aged 5-16.
Problems arise because everyone's arriving at the same time, and trying to get as close to the school as possible. Increased traffic levels and idling vehicles don't help air quality.
Some headteachers try and encourage pupils to walk or cycle to school – however, as many parents are driving to work anyway, the temptation to combine two journeys is very appealing.
Just over 40% of UK-wide schools encourage walking to school, and only 20% encourage cycling.
How can parents beat school run traffic?
There's no simple one-size-fits-all answer - if you're aiming to de-stress your morning and afternoon journey, it may be a case of trial and error to see what works for you.
Walk or cycle
- Talk to your kids about if they're ready to try cycling, or walking part of the way to school.
- Our tips to help cyclists feel safe are a must-read.
Try a walking bus
- You could try a ‘walking bus’, where 2 or more parents or teachers lead children to school.
- If you're keen to set up a walking bus with other parents, don't forget that a minimum of 2 adults must be present.
- One adult leads the children, and the other walks at the back of the group.
- Both adults must wear hi-vis vests.
Change where you park
- You may be able to find a parking space a little way away from the school.
- It's worth checking out local Facebook groups to see if anyone has a spare driveway they would let you use for a few minutes every day when you walk your kids to and from school.
- Don't forget that traffic chaos is often the result of inconsiderate parking and waiting.
- Always obey parking and waiting restrictions, don’t block driveways or double park - even for a few minutes - and switch off your engine while you're waiting for your child.
- Alternatively, you and other parents who live locally could always take turns being school run drivers and giving lifts.
- Bear in mind that organising the right child restraints in the right car at the right time can get complicated.
Do schools have their own speed limits?
It's not the school that has the speed limit - it's the responsible highway authority.
If there’s one place a 20mph limit is justified it’s outside a school, especially at dropping off and picking up time.
But even without signs showing a lower limit you must drive to the conditions. Bear in mind that even 20mph is too fast when there are lots of possibly distracted parents and children around who could step into the road at any time.
Will the school run be banned over concerns about air pollution?
There are no national plans to ban school runs, although many head teachers are piloting local bans to tackle air pollution around their schools.
Understandably, many parents, especially in more rural areas, have voiced their worry that without their cars, they won't be able to take their children to school.
Several schools have set up 'park and stride' schemes as a compromise - a designated parking area is set up, such as a local car park, and parents walk their children the rest of the way into school.