School’s back in session, and that means dealing with school traffic. There’s more to getting around than just congestion and low-speed limits: children don’t fully understand traffic conditions. This makes their behavior unpredictable and potentially dangerous. These tips will increase awareness and help keep kids safe when you’re driving around the neighborhood.
Dropping off Your Children
More children are hit by cars when they’re near schools than at any other location. To help reduce the risk, most schools have designed specific drop-off procedures, including different start times for different grades, “park and walk” locations for drop-off and even valets to help children out of vehicles. Familiarize yourself with the school’s procedures so you can drop off your kids safely and quickly. There are also a few other things you can do to ensure everyone’s safety:
- Always load and unload children on the same side of the street as the school. Crossing a busy street increases the risk of being hit.
- Don’t double park. This makes it more difficult for other families wanting to drop off their children and can reduce their visibility.
- Try carpooling. This can save you time by alternating days you have to do the school run, and it reduces the number of cars at the school further reducing the risk of accidents.
Protecting Young Pedestrians
According to a report by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHSTA), 29 percent of pedestrian fatalities occur in the fall, largely due to the influx of kids walking to and from school.
- Stay out of crosswalks. If pedestrians are forced to walk around you, they could be forced into the path of traffic.
- Never pass a vehicle that is waiting for pedestrians to cross.
- Be extra aware around parks, playgrounds, schools and residential areas where kids are likely to be walking.
Dealing with Buses
While buses are a frequent sight in big cities, they can take some getting used to when they start showing up in your neighborhood. Most children who lose their lives in bus-related incidents are 4 to 7 years old and are struck either by the bus or by cars illegally passing a stopped bus.
- Allow for extra distance when following a bus to deal with their frequent stops.
- When stopping for a bus, make sure there is a minimum of 10 feet of space between the bus and your vehicle.
- If the lights are flashing and the stop arm at the front of the bus is extended, stay put. If you try to go around, you could get a ticket. Even worse, you run the risk of hitting a child leaving the bus.
With young cyclists, any predictability goes out the window thanks to their lack of cycling education and the tendency for their focus to drift away from riding.
- Leave at least three feet between your car and cyclists.
- Never turn left in front of a bicycle. Let the cyclist pass first.
- Keep an eye out for bikes coming from driveways and behind parked cars. If you see a young cyclist at an intersection, expect them to turn in front of you without signaling.
- Check your side mirrors before opening your door. When your door swings open, it becomes a wall in front of any cyclists riding down the street, and the resulting crash can be lethal.
No matter what the situation is, the same problems surrounding normal driving, from distracted driving to breaking safety rules, can be even more dangerous around school zones. By exercising a little extra caution, everyone can get to where they’re going safe and sound.