Schools are back in session which means congestion and traffic are back. Buses are picking up students, busy parents are trying to drop their kids off before work and kids are crossing the streets to beat the first bell. It is never more important than now for drivers to use caution when children are present – especially before and after school the school bell rings.
If you are driving behind a school bus, you should allow a greater following distance than you would if you were driving behind a car. Doing so gives you more time to stop once the yellow lights start to flash. In all 50 states, it is illegal to pass a stopped school bus that is loading or unloading students.
- You should NEVER pass a school bus from behind – or from either direction if you are on an undivided road – if the bus is stopped to load or unload children
- When the yellow or red lights are flashing and the school bus stop arm is extended, ALL traffic must stop
- The area 10 feet around a bus is the most dangerous for students, you should stop far enough back to ensure they have enough space to safely enter and exit the bus
- Finally, be alert! Children are often unpredictable, and tend to ignore hazards and signs and often take risks
According to the National Safety Council most of the children who lose their lives in bus-related incidents are between the ages of 4-7 and they are walking. In most cases, they are hit by the bus, or by a motorist who is illegally passing a stopped bus. There are a few precautions that will go a long way to keeping children safe:
- Never block the crosswalk when stopping at a red light or making a turn, this forces young pedestrians to go around you which could put them in the path of moving traffic
- When you are in a school zone and flashers are blinking, yield or stop to pedestrians crossing the intersection or crosswalk
- Always stop for a school crossing guard or patrol officer who is holding up a stop sign
- Look out for children in school zones, near parks and playgrounds, and in residential areas
- Don’t scare a pedestrian, even if you do have the right of way
- Never pass a car or truck that has stopped for pedestrians
- Use extreme caution to avoid striking pedestrians, no matter who has the right of way
In most situations, bicyclists have the same responsibilities and rights as vehicles, however bikes can be hard to see. Children who are riding bikes create special issues for drivers because usually they are not able to determine traffic conditions. The most common cause of accident is when a driver is turning left in front of a bicyclist.
- When passing a bicyclist, proceed slowly in the same direction slowly, and leave 3 feet between the cyclist and your car
- When you turn left and a bicyclist is approaching in the opposite direction, you should wait for the rider to pass
- When you are turning right, and bicyclists approach from behind on the right, you should let the rider go through the intersection first, and make sure you are always using your turn signals
- Watch for riders who are turning in front of you without signaling or looking; children often do this
- Be very cautious in residential areas and school zones
- Watch for bikes coming out from behind parked cars or down driveways
- Make sure you check your side mirrors before you open your car door
Most schools have specific drop-off procedures that need to be followed. Make sure you know what they are so you can ensure the safety of all students. Here are some things that apply to all school zones:
- No double parking as it blocks visibility of other children and vehicles
- Never load or unload children across the street from the school
- Utilize a carpool to reduce the number of cars going in and out of the school
If you exercise a little more caution and care, drivers and young pedestrians and bicyclists can safety co-exist in school zones.
This blog is provided by Hardee, Massey & Blodgett for informational purposes only and is not considered legal advice on any subject matter.