Drivers need to use increased vigilance in school zones

Streets and neighborhoods become more crowded when school resumes every fall. Routes that might be free of pedestrians and bicycle riders in the summer can become congested. Travel times increase along with the potential for vehicle crashes with school-age children.

Motorists need to increase their vigilance, especially around schools and along crowed routes. The following suggestions can help ensure everyone reaches his or her destination safely:

  • Motorists should be keenly aware of the risks that accompany the reopening of schools as more children use sidewalks and bicycle paths. Anticipate spontaneous movement from children who sometimes are distracted and unaware of their surroundings.
  • Drive with extra care near school zones or other areas where children might be present, such as parks or playgrounds.
  • Obey the posted speed limit and be aware of reduced speed limits near schools and in corridors defined by flashing yellow lights.
  • If dropping off children, deliver them as close to school as possible and follow established traffic patterns. Don’t leave until children are safely on the school grounds.
  • Avoid distractions, especially cell phone use, when transporting children.
  • Buses sometimes stop in travel lanes, requiring approaching vehicles to slow or stop.
  • It is illegal in all 50 states to pass a school bus that is stopped to load or unload children.
  • The most dangerous area for children loading or leaving a school bus is within 10 feet. Allow enough room around the bus for children to walk unhindered.
  • Never pass a stopped school bus on the right.
  • Do not honk your horn, race 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.
  • Enter and exit driveways and alleys slowly and carefully.
  • Drivers must stop when approaching a school bus that is stopped to pick up or deliver school children if the bus displays flashing red signals. Flashing yellow lights indicate the bus is slowing to stop. Drivers should consider the flashing yellow school bus lights as they would a solid yellow traffic signal.
  • On a two-lane road, following and oncoming traffic must stop and remain stopped as long as the school bus displays flashing red lights and/or the stop arm on the driver’s side of the bus is extended.
  • On a highway with two or more lanes of traffic in each direction, oncoming traffic is not required to stop when meeting a school bus. However, motorists still are urged to watch for children crossing traffic lanes while on their way to or from the bus.
  • Drivers also should use caution when traveling through school zones or near routes used by children and should observe school speed limits and the instructions of crossing guards.

Published 8-16-13