With school starting up again, you may notice heavier traffic and more pedestrians on foot and bike, especially if you live near a school or university. Regardless whether or not you’re heading to school, it’s important for all motorists to practice safe driving and exercise caution when in busy school areas. Here are some back to school safety tips as kids, parents and teachers head back to school:
Sharing the road with pedestrians
If you live near a school or campus, it’s likely you’ll notice a lot more foot traffic as another school year begins. When you’re behind the wheel, it’s crucial to exercise caution when driving in areas that are heavy with pedestrians, especially at traffic lights, stop signs and other intersections where pedestrians may be crossing the street. This is particularly important if you live by an elementary school where young children may be walking to school, as they are less likely to be fully aware of their surroundings. Here are some tips for safe driving around heavy pedestrian traffic:
- In a school zone where warning flashers are blinking, you must stop to yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a marked crosswalk or at an intersection with no marked crosswalk.
- Don’t honk your horn, rev your engine or do anything to rush or scare a pedestrian in front of your car, even if you have the legal right-of-way.
- Never block the crosswalk when stopped at an intersection, whether it be a stop light or stop sign. Blocking the crosswalk forces pedestrians to go around your vehicle and puts them in a dangerous situation.
- Always stop when directed to do so by a school patrol sign, school patrol officer or designated crossing guard.
Sharing the road with cyclists
Bicyclists often use a bike lane on the road, and it’s important to exercise extreme caution around those on bike and properly share the road with them. Bicyclists can come out into traffic quickly and sometimes be hard to see, so it’s important to be extra cautious around these pedestrians.
- The most common causes of collisions are drivers turning left in front of an oncoming bicycle or turning right, across the path of the bicycle.
- When your vehicle is turning left and there is a bicyclist entering the intersection from the opposite direction, you should wait for the bicyclist to pass before making the turn.
- If your vehicle is turning right and a bicyclist is approaching on the right, let the bicyclist go through the intersection first before making a right turn. Remember to always use your turn signals.
- When passing a bicyclist proceeding in the same direction, do so slowly and leave at least a distance between you and the bicycle of no less than 3 feet. Maintain this clearance until you have safely passed the bicycle.
- Watch out for bikes coming out of driveways or from behind parked cars or other obstructions.
- Check side mirrors for bicyclists before opening the door. Some communities may fine drivers for collisions caused by opening a vehicle door in the path of a bicyclist.
Sharing the road with buses
School buses are one of the safest forms of transportation on the road today. In fact,
according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, riding a bus to school is 13 times safer than riding in a passenger vehicle and 10 times safer than walking to school. Most accidents involving children riding a bus have to do with a vehicle illegally passing a stopped bus. It’s important to know the rules regarding passing a bus and what to do when a bus is stopped so you can keep yourself and those around you safe.
- All 50 states have a law making it illegal to pass a school bus that is stopped to load or unload children.
- School buses use yellow flashing lights to alert motorists that they are preparing to stop to load or unload children. Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign arm signals to motorists that the bus is stopped and children are getting on or off the bus.
- All 50 states require that traffic in both directions stop on undivided roadways when students are entering or exiting a school bus.
- The area 10 feet around a school bus is where children are in the most danger of being hit. Stop your car far enough from the bus to allow children the necessary space to safely enter and exit the bus.
- Be alert. Children are unpredictable. 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.
- Never pass a school bus on the right. It is illegal and could have tragic consequences.
Autumn can be a particularly busy time on the road with school starting up again, but safety does not have to sacrificed. Always stay alert when you are behind the wheel, and use these tips as best practices when driving near busses, bicyclists and pedestrians. If you have a child who is heading back to school, review safety tips with them so they too can keep everyone on the road, whether on a bus, bike or foot, safe.
Safety tips courtesy of The National Safety Council.
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