Millions of children across the country are returning to school. For parents, children and commuters, sharing the road requires extra caution. It is important for motorists to compensate for children’s underdeveloped skills. For example, children have only two thirds of the peripheral vision that adults have. They have difficulty determining the source of a sound and are still learning to judge distances and speeds. When a car is coming towards them, they can’t judge how fast it is traveling or how long it will take to cover the distance. They tend to overestimate their abilities and think they can run across the street before the light changes or a car approaches. Crossing guards, reduced speed limits, and traffic laws all aim to make getting to and from school safer. In addition, here are a few back to school tips for motorists.
- Be on the lookout for and obey school crossing guards. You may only see them for a few hours a day, but they have one of the most important jobs in public service. Years ago, older elementary school children were given an orange safety belt and sent out to the streets to help younger children safely cross the street. Today, most crossing guards are adults and receive classroom training and certifications in order to perform this important job. The safety patrol members guarding the crosswalk are there to direct the students, not the traffic. It is a driver’s responsibility to stop to allow pedestrians to cross in a crosswalk.
- Obey School Speed Zones. School zone speed limits are often, but not always, only applicable during posted weekday hours near the beginning and ending of school when children are likely to cross roads. In some jurisdictions, the school zone speed limit is effective at all times when school is in session, plus additional time before and after the school day. Flashing amber lights often indicate when the school zone is effective. School speed zone laws vary from state to state, but in nearly all cases, fines for violating school speed zones are doubled.
- Be Attentive. Most drivers would never intentionally speed in a school zone or pass a stopped school bus, but if you’ve ever driven to work and don’t recall getting there, you know how easy it is to daydream, get caught up listening to music, or in states that still allow cell phone usage in cars, become distracted while in a phone conversation.
- Know the Law For Passing a School Bus. According to the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation, nearly 100,000 school bus drivers reported 88,000 vehicles passed their buses illegally in a single day. Each state has different laws concerning when it is legal/illegal to pass a stopped school bus. Find out whether you are required to stop for a bus in the same lane, opposing lane or at an intersection in this state summary of driver’s handbooks. Remember, children walking to or from their bus are usually very comfortable with their surroundings. This makes them more likely to take risks, ignore hazards or fail to look both ways when crossing the street.
- Heed the Crosswalks. Generally, pedestrians have the right-of-way at all intersections; however, regardless of the rules of the road or right-of-way, you as a driver are obligated to exercise great care and extreme caution to avoid striking pedestrians. Don’t block the crosswalk when stopped at a red light or waiting to make a turn. Blocking the crosswalk forces pedestrians to go around your vehicle and puts them in a dangerous situation.
Tips for Parents:
- Comply with local school drop-off and pick-up procedures for the safety of all children accessing the school. At arrival and dismissal times, drivers are often in a hurry and distracted which can lead to unsafe conditions for students and others walking, bicycling and driving in the area.
- Avoid loading or unloading children at locations across the street from the school. This forces youngsters to unnecessarily cross busy streets—often mid-block rather than at a crosswalk.
- If you park on the side of the road, always have your child exit the car on the side away from traffic.
- If your children ride a bike, scooter or skateboard to school remind them that they must walk the bike or scooter or carry the skateboard across the crosswalk. If they roller skate or rollerblade to school, they must remove the skate or blades and walk across the crosswalk, as well.
- If your child rides a school bus, be sure check out our School Bus Safety Tips.
How do your driving habits change once school is in session?