Now that school is opening and children are heading back to classes, drivers need to be extra cautious. Twice a day, children walk to and from school and to and from school buses to be taken to and from school. Pedestrian accidents can happen when children run out into the street or exit a school bus unsafely. Unfortunately, pedestrian accidents involving children are more likely to result in fatalities or serious personal injuries, since children are much smaller and therefore less able to survive the impact of a vehicle. Now is a good time to review some driving tips for back to school:
1) Know your school bus safety. If you are driving and you see a stopped school bus in front of you with lights flashing and/or the stop arm extended, you are required to stop. If you drive up to an intersection and there is a school bus there that is stopped and has its lights flashing and its stop sign extended, you are required to stop. In both instances, you need to stop a minimum of ten feet away from the school bus and you must wait until the school bus withdraws its stop sign and turns its lights off before proceeding. Failure to do so will result in a fine and possible suspension of your license.
2) Get familiar with schools and school times on your route. If you commute to work, note where schools are located on your route. Then, find out when school lunch breaks are and when schools open and end. This will give you a sense of when the area will be congested with traffic and pedestrian traffic. You might want to find an alternative route to work if you will need to drive through a busy school zone every day.
3) Get your car inspected. You need to be able stop quickly if a child runs out in front of your car. Make sure that your car is in good mechanical condition and will respond correctly.
4) If you do drive through a busy school zone, use extra caution. Keep in mind that children may run out without using crosswalks or may be hidden between cars. Also, keep in mind that although pedestrian traffic will be heaviest closest to a school, children may be walking a few blocks away.
5) Be wary of street parking in school areas. If street parking is allowed near a school, children can easily hide between cars and jump out into traffic while playing. Keep a close eye out for children between cars. Keep in mind, too, that busy parents dropping off their children may be pulling in and out of street parking spots quickly in a school zone, sometimes without looking carefully.