Across the U.S., students are returning to school and adding to the countless cars and busses on the road. This increase in traffic, particularly early morning and mid-afternoon, make it especially important for all motorists to be on high alert for school busses and pedestrians. This is also a great time for parents to communicate safety rules to children for their journey to school and back.
Tips for Drivers
If you drive your children to school, or are simply on the road at the peak school travel times, it is vital to keep the following tips in mind:
- Look out for school zone signs, especially while on back roads.
- Obey the speed limits and any changes in speed limits for school zones.
- Stow away all possible distractions while driving through school zones – children may appear in the road suddenly and you will want to be on high alert for those possible instances.
- Always stop for crossing guards and follow their direction.
- Yield the right-of-way for pedestrians crossing the roadway with a marked crosswalk or at an intersection with no marked crosswalk. Drivers in all directions must stop once a child steps off the curb and wait until they have crossed the street completely before driving.
- Never pass a school bus on the right.
- Always give the school bus the right of way, especially when a bus is merging back into traffic.
As a rule of thumb, slow down to at least a few miles under the speed limit when driving through school zones, and if you are dropping your children off, be sure to do so safely in a designated drop-off zone.
Safety Tips for Children
Before your child returns to school, it is imperative that they understand the importance of safety while commuting to school and back. Just like drivers, children should have a heightened sense of awareness when traveling to and from school. To be on the safe side, kids should be reminded of the following safety rules for school travel:
- Arrive at the bus stop at least five minutes before its scheduled time of arrival. This way, you will not have to chase the bus or enter the road for any reason.
- Stand at least three large steps back from the curb at all times, until your mode of transport has arrived.
- Wait until the school bus or other motor vehicle has come to a complete stop before boarding.
- If you drop any personal items while entering or exiting the school bus, make sure to let the driver know before attempting to pick it up. The driver should know where you are at all times.
In addition, of course, make sure they understand road crossing rules. They will need to listen to the crossing guard’s instructions on their way or when they arrive at the school, as drivers may not be able to see them crossing the road.
Tips for Teen Drivers
If you are a parent of a teenager who will be driving to and from school, it is imperative that you go over driving safety rules before the school year begins. More than one in four fatal crashes involving teen drivers occur during after-school hours between 3:00 PM and 5:00 PM. With this staggering statistic in mind, make sure your teen driver understands the importance of safety while driving anywhere, in addition to in school zones. A few tactics to teach your child include:
- Make sure to have a good night’s rest before driving to school.
- Leave at least ten minutes early so as not to panic that they may be late to class (and possibly speed).
- Leave five to ten minutes after the rush once school is out. This way, there will be less traffic in the school zone.
- Pay close attention when entering the school zone and listen to the crossing guard’s instructions.
- Make sure all electronic devices are tucked away in a backpack or out of sight elsewhere.
As a parent of a teenager who is driving, there are many apps we encourage you to use to enforce no cell phone distractions while your teen is driving.
Back-to-school is a hectic time for families, but safe driving is a responsibility that we all need to take seriously. Drivers of all ages should be alert, avoid all distractions while driving, and always exercise good judgment in school zones (or anywhere on the road). If you or your child find yourself rushing in the morning, make sure to adjust your routine so as to improve safety not just for your family, but for the families of those around you. Stay safe, and have a safe and happy school year!