Traffic congestion spikes with the start of every school year. The big yellow school buses come back into circulation, kids on bikes are more prevalent en route to class, and parents dropping off their children are in a hurry to get the kids to school and start their own day at work or doing projects at home.
Relying on everyone else to pay attention for you never works—that kind of attitude could endanger you and them. Slow down and pay attention whenever kids are present, particularly before and after school hours, and you may just avoid disaster.
For parents who are dropping children off at school.
For the safety of their students, schools usually have specific procedures for parents who prefer to drop their kids off each morning. More kids are hit by cars near schools than in any other location and according to the National Safe Routes to School program, the following apply to all school zones:
- No double-parking. It blocks visibility for other children and vehicles.
- Don’t load or unload children across the street from their school.
- Carpool to reduce the number of vehicles at the school.
For sharing the road with young pedestrians.
Per research conducted by the National Safety Council, most children who lose their lives in bus-related incidents are 4-7 years old and on foot. More often than not, they are hit by a school bus or by car illegally passing a stopped bus. They are small and therefore difficult to see and may not have the forethought to check the street before stepping out. Here are a few tips that will help you stay cautious around buses and serve as a reminder on how to keep our smallest pedestrians safe:
- Do not block the crosswalk while idling at a red light or waiting to turn. Sticking out over the stop line forces pedestrians to venture further out into the road than they’re meant to just to go around you, which could put them in the path of moving traffic.
- When flashers are blinking in a school zone, stop and yield to pedestrians in the intersection or using the crosswalk.
- Always stop when a school patrol officer or crossing guard holding a stop sign indicates for you to do so.
- Take extra time to check for children in school zones—roads near playgrounds, parks, and residential areas have even more opportunities for disaster to strike.
- Do not honk or rev your engine to intimidate pedestrians, even if you have the right of way.
- Never pass a vehicle stopped for pedestrians.
- Use extreme caution to avoid hitting pedestrians wherever they might be, regardless of who has the right of way.
For sharing the road with school buses.
As you would with a semi-truck, keep a greater following distance between yourself and a school bus than you might with another car. You’ll have more time to stop once their lights start flashing and they slow down for a pickup that way—it is illegal in all 50 states to pass a school bus that is stopped to load or unload children. You should never pass a bus from behind or from either direction if you’re on an undivided road if it’s stopped to pick up or drop off passengers. Additionally:
- If a bus’s yellow or red lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended, traffic must stop.
- The area 10 feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for children—stop with enough space between you and the back of the bus to allow kids to safely enter and exit the bus.
- Keep a lookout—children are unpredictable and tend to be far less mindful of hazards.
For sharing the road with young bicyclists.
Bicyclists for the most part have the same rights and responsibilities as vehicles, but they can be exponentially harder to see. Children riding bicycles can be even more difficult to see—that combined with kids typically being less mindful of traffic conditions and timing create the makings for a potential catastrophe. The most common cause of a collision between a car and cyclist is a driver turning left in front of a bicyclist. To avoid a crash:
- Leave three feet between your car and the cyclist when passing and proceed in the same direction slowly until the pass is complete.
- When you’re waiting to turn left, wait for the cyclist to pass if they’re approaching from the opposite direction.
- If you’re turning right and a cyclist is approaching from behind on the right, let the rider go through the intersection first and always use your turn signals.
- Be wary of cyclists turning in front of you without using proper hand signals or even without looking—especially children.
- Stay vigilant in school zones and residential neighborhoods where kids may be carelessly riding around.
- Watch for bikes coming fast from driveways or from behind parked cars.
- Always check side mirrors before opening your door.
Exercising additional caution with the start of the new school year is always smart and you and other drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians will be happy you did. If you’ve been in an accident and have sustained injuries or damage to your property, contact Boughter Sinak, LLC, today for a free consultation.
Image Credit: First Student Inc.