Back to school means more drivers on the road and with that means more congestion. School buses are picking up their passengers, kids on bikes are hurrying to get to school and parents are trying to drop their kids off before work. It's important for drivers to slow down and pay attention when kids are present, especially before and after school.
As a driver, you already know to follow certain safety precautions in school zones. Even though zones are typically well marked and have lower speed limits posted, more children are hit by cars in areas close to their schools. It is important to slow down and pay attention behind the wheel.
- Know the speed limit. Not all school zones have the same speed limit. Speed limits vary between 10, 15 or 20 mph. Look for the posted speed limit and follow them.
- Put down the phone. Not only can talking on the phone or texting in an active school zone earn you a hefty fine in many states — it can be deadly. Children may not pay attention as they cross a street, so it’s crucial that drivers are always alert.
- Watch for pedestrians. Crosswalks near school zones are particularly busy before and after school, but not all of them have crossing guards, and not all students will wait to cross at the proper time. (In fact, not all students will use crosswalks!) Drive slowly and watch for pedestrians crossing the road or walking in the road. Always give the pedestrian the right of way and follow any signals given by crossing guards.
- Go slowly past parked cars. Children can appear seemingly out of nowhere when they run out from between parked cars to cross the street. Drive slowly and keep your eyes active to scan for movement not just on the street and sidewalk, but between parked vehicles as well. In this situation, the right lane may not be the lane of least resistance. When you have a choice, the center or left lane may be a better option.
When you’re driving in a school zone, you have to follow a different set of rules. Certain actions that you wouldn’t give a second thought to in other traffic situations aren’t allowed in school zones, and that includes passing another vehicle, changing lanes and making a U-turn.
Sharing The Road with School Buses:
School bus drivers face their own challenges on the road. Bus drivers have a large vehicle that has blind spots all around and requires more time to stop. Other drivers sharing the road with buses should adopt driving habits that help make the roads safer for everyone. Here are a few important rules to remember:
- Always maintain a safe following distance. Keep as much space as possible between your vehicle and the bus in front of you. If you’re in front of a school bus, it’s important you’re paying attention to traffic and situations on the road that will prevent you from slamming on your brakes, which could create a situation where a bus driver doesn’t have sufficient braking time to avoid a crash.
- In traffic, avoid “cutting” in front of a bus. Many bus drivers leave a safe following distance between the bus and the car ahead of them to ensure a safer environment for passengers. Even if your car can fit into the space, drivers should always avoid cutting in front of a bus or transit vehicle.
- Watch for buses that are loading or unloading children. Be prepared to stop when the bus stops. The most dangerous area around a school bus is the space 10 feet around the vehicle since this falls into the driver’s blind spot. Be sure to stop more than 10 feet behind a school bus to allow passengers a safe space for entering and exiting.
- Never pass a stopped school bus. No matter what state you live in, it’s illegal to pass a school bus that has stopped to load or unload children. This rule includes passing a bus from either direction, so any time you approach a school bus that has stopped to pick up or unload children, you need to stop as well.
- Be alert. Children often are unpredictable, and they tend to ignore hazards and take risks.
Back-to-school time is busy for parents, children and bus drivers, so each one must do their part to help make the roads safer and look out for others around them.
Sharing The Road with Bicyclists:
Bicyclists usually have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers. The most common cause of collision is a driver turning left in front of a bicyclist.
- When passing a bicyclist, proceed in the same direction slowly, and leave 3 feet between your car and the cyclist.
- When turning left and a bicyclist is approaching in the opposite direction, wait for the rider to pass.
- If you're turning right and a bicyclists is approaching from behind on the right, let the rider go through the intersection first, and always use your turn signals.
- Watch for bike riders turning in front of you without looking or signaling; children especially have a tendency to do this.
- Be extra vigilant in school zones and residential neighborhoods.
- Watch for bikes coming from driveways or behind parked cars.
- Check side mirrors before opening your door.
By exercising a little extra care and caution, drivers and pedestrians can co-exist safely in school zones.