Public Health Matters: Back to School on Road Safety

September 1, 2015

Hi everyone, it’s Dr. Jan Owen, Acting Medical Officer of Health for Huron County. It’s September and the start of school. An ideal time for all of us to “go back to school” to learn about bicycle and pedestrian safety.

For those of you who didn’t catch my first column in August, we started discussing what public health is and how it works in Huron County.

All Ontario public health units must meet a number of goals outlined in a document called the Ontario Public Health Standards (OPHS). One of these goals is to work with community partners on ways to reduce injuries. Most injuries are predictable and preventable. By working together on things like education, awareness and physical changes like sidewalks and cycling lanes, we can help make roads safer for everyone.

One example is the Coalition for Huron Injury Prevention (CHIP). This group includes the Health Unit, municipal representatives, the county highways department, local police and the Ministry of Transportation.

CHIP runs several initiatives promoting education and awareness of road safety (including off-road safety) in Huron County.

In addition to education and awareness, it’s important to create safe, healthy environments for people to walk and cycle in.

Huron County is doing wonderful work around active transportation. Active transportation is using your body to get “from here to there”. The Health Unit worked with the Planning and Development department to create the Huron County Active Transportation: A Call to Action report.

The report lists specific ways the County, municipalities, businesses, community groups, and individuals can support active transportation. This includes promoting the use of our many trails, having bike lanes on our roads and educating drivers, pedestrians and cyclists on how to share the road.

So let’s “go back to school!”

Tips for drivers:

  • Keep an eye out for kids walking or cycling to school.
  • The law requires you to give at least one meter of space between your vehicle and a cyclist on the road. More is always better.
  • Always double check your blind spots when turning. Watch for cyclists and pedestrians.

Tips for pedestrians and cyclists:

  • Wear retro-reflective materials. Retro-reflective material bounces the light from car headlights back to the driver. This allows drivers to see you from very far away.
  • Helmets save lives – wear one. It’s the law for kids but adult cyclists are powerful role models for kids. Adults, wear your helmets, and they will too.

You can be the teacher:

  • Get a group of kids together and walk to school instead of getting car rides.
  • Ensure kids know the rules of the road if walking or cycling to school.
  • Encourage your school to have: bike racks available at the front of the school and trips that include active transportation, like walking, bicycling, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. For more information on active transportation and injury prevention, visit

Next month I will talk about an important health factor that most people don’t think of being related to health.

So stay safe out there and stay tuned!

For more information, please contact Sharon Brown, Executive Assistant, Huron County Health Unit, 519.482.3416 (toll-free 1.877.837.6143) ext. 2224 or


For more information contact:

Susan Cronin, County Clerk
519.524.8394 (ext 3257)