The start of school means increased congestion on the road, children on sidewalks waiting for their bus, and parents trying to drop their children off at school before work, which is why the month of August is designated Back-to-School Safety month. Here are some safe driving tips to remember this month and throughout the school year to keep our children safe.
Drive Slowly in Residential Neighborhoods and School Zones
The beginning of the school year means children will be waiting at bus stops, especially in residential areas. During the summer months, it can be easy to forget that children will be waiting at these areas for their buses to arrive once the school year begins. While technically the children should remain on the sidewalk and off the road, it should never be assumed children will stay on the sidewalk or curb. When driving past the stop, drive at or below the posted speed limit just in case a child decides to jump into the street or immediately cross the street without looking.
School zones also have reduced speed limits, usually at 25 mph, and while this speed can seem slow, the speed limit has been reduced for a very good reason. Be aware of this reduced speed and adjust your speed accordingly.
Drive Slow and Be Patient in School Parking Lots
Some of the most chaotic and stressful situations for drivers and pedestrians involves the school parking lot. During drop-off and pick-up times, children are getting in and out of cars, freely crossing through the parking lot, and dodging parked and moving cars. Parents may not always be paying close attention, and a child could easily dart out from a car, resulting in a tragic- but avoidable accident. Be patient and drive with caution when moving through school parking lots. When backing out of a parking spot, be sure that there are no children walking behind your vehicle. Also, do not park illegally as it can block visibility for pedestrians and other vehicles trying to leave the lot. Be aware of the buses and where they pull in and out of the school and be aware of the crossing areas for children who walk to school. Even if a parent is running late and is in a hurry, that is never an excuse to drive carelessly while in a school zone.
Most schools have a protocol for dropping off and picking up children, so the best rule of thumb is to know what this protocol is before the first day of school and to follow it throughout the school year.
Be Extra Cautious at Intersections
When approaching a stop sign in a residential area or at any intersection, it is important to exercise caution. If children are in the area, do not assume they know when and where to cross. Allow the children to fully cross through the intersection before driving through.
Watch for School Buses
The start of the school year also means that the yellow school buses will be on the road. When driving behind a bus, add extra distance between the car and the bus. This distance gives the driver time to stop once the bus begins to flash the yellow caution lights. Itis illegal in all 50 states to pass a school bus once the red lights are flashing indicating that children are getting on or off the bus. Wait for the children to get off the bus and for the bus driver to give the ‘all clear’ before continuing to drive. When stopping to let children on and off a bus, a good rule of thumb is to give at least 10 feet around the school bus to allow the children to safely enter and exit. Be aware that children are unpredictable and may ignore hazards when getting on and off the bus.
In addition to buses and cars on the road, it is important that drivers are aware of children riding bikes. Many times, the children are not aware of the rules of the road when riding a bike. In addition, bikes can stop quickly and without warning, and if a driver is not paying attention, this sudden stop can mean a collision with a bicyclist. Be sure to leave extra distance between the car and the bike, and when approaching an intersection, assume the bicyclist will turn, even if he or she is not indicating an upcoming turn.
Another risk to motorists and pedestrians once school begins is the number of young drivers on the road. While, yes, teen drivers have completed driver’s education and have training, this does not mean that they will be careful when on the road or when exiting their school’s parking lot. Accidents cannot always be prevented, especially when teen drivers are involved, but by being vigilant when driving around a high school parking lot, an accident can at least be prevented.
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