As the end of summer quickly approaches, so does the back to school season. While the current COVID-19 global pandemic has caused each school to reevaluate opening their doors, the back to school season may be different than years past.
Whatever decision leaders make regarding individual schools, it is important to anticipate how those changes will affect you and your family. Keeping schools closed could mean finding a new normal for schoolwork and extracurricular activities outside the home. Schools opening could mean scheduling pick-ups and drop-offs as well as navigating roadways around school.
Either way, the back to school season does have an effect on the roadways. In this article, we’ll discuss 3 back to school safety tips for drivers to ensure you and your loved ones are safe on the road, wherever your destination may be.
Watch for Pedestrians
Because of their lack of protection, pedestrians are most at risk on American roadways. Children and elderly persons are especially at risk. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pedestrians aged 65 and older accounted for 20% of all pedestrian deaths in 2017. In the same year, one in every five children under the age of 15 killed in traffic crashes were pedestrians.
When driving, there are a few precautions that can ultimately save a life:
- Do not block the crosswalk when stopped at a red light or waiting to make a turn
- Stop and yield to pedestrians, especially when approaching a school zone
- Always stop for a school patrol officer or crossing guard
- Scan for children when near a school zone, park, playground, and residential area; children are small and could easily be concealed by other objects
- Never pass a vehicle that is stopped for pedestrians
“When cars think they have the right of way, they are less likely to watch for pedestrians.,” note attorneys from Harris & Harris Injury Lawyers, “Pedestrians have the right of way. This includes unmarked crosswalks.” Always give pedestrians the right of way and stay alert for any and all types of pedestrians, including children.
Respect the Rights of Buses
From 2007 to 2016, three have been 1,282 people killed in school-transportation-related crashes, which is an average of 128 fatalities per year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In all 50 states, it is illegal to pass a school bus that is stopped to load or unload children. If you are driving behind a school bus, allow for a larger distance between your car and the bus than you would for an average car.
When approaching on the bus, do the following to improve the safety of all:
- Never pass a bus from behind
- If the yellow or red lights are flashing and the stop sign arm is extended, you must stop.
- Give the bus a perimeter of at least 10 feet so children can safely enter and exit the bus
Children can be unpredictable as can other drivers. Always give extra space to buses and be aware of your surroundings, especially when children are loading and unloading.
Share the Road with Bicyclists
Bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as vehicles in all 50 states, but can be hard to see on the roadway. Children cyclists are especially at risk due to their small size and lack of experience in navigating traffic conditions.
To enhance safety on the roadway for bicyclists, especially young bicyclists, do the following:
- Leave 3 feet of space between your car and a cyclist when passing
- When turning left and a cyclist is approaching in the opposing direction, wait for the bicycle rider to pass
- Use turn signals
- Watch for cyclists, especially children cyclists, to turn in front of you without looking or signaling
- Check for bicyclists coming from driveways or behind parked cars
- Check your mirrors before opening a car door
Back to School Safety First
Regardless of when your child’s school reopens, it is important to be vigilant on the road, especially in school zones. Using these three safety tips, you can enhance safety for all people in the road, including cyclists, pedestrians, bus drivers, and car drivers. While COVID-19 precautions may be a new consideration for many, roadway safety shouldn’t be. Put safety first!