Back to School Safety: Be Alert and Follow the Rules of the Road

The annual back to school ritual is upon us. For motorists, it means a return to heavier traffic and more potential for accidents, particularly with children in various modes of transportation to and from school.

The National Safety Council offers some essential tips on sharing the road safely with school buses, pedestrians and bicyclists.

Know the Rules for Driving Near School Buses

• It is illegal in all fifty states to pass a school bus that has stopped to unload or load children.
• School buses will flash yellow lights to alert other motorists that they are about to stop to drop off or pick up children. Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign are signals that the bus is stopped and children are getting on or off the bus.
• Traffic in both directions on undivided roadways must stop when students are entering or exiting a bus.
• On divided roadways, traffic behind the school bus must stop when the bus is loading or unloading. State laws vary on what is required of motorists traveling in the opposite direction on divided roadways.
• Stop your car far enough from a bus to give children plenty of space to enter or exit the bus safely.
• Passing a school bus on the right is illegal and extremely dangerous.

Share the Road Safely With Children Walking To and From School

• Do not block crosswalks when stopped at a red light or waiting to make a turn.
• You must yield the right of way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway in a school zone when warning flashers are blinking.
• Always stop as directed by school patrol signs and crossing guards.
• Watch out for children in school zones, residential areas, playground and parks. Children are unpredictable and may not follow crossing rules.

Be Extra Cautious Around Bicyclists

• Maintain a distance of at least three feet when you are passing a bicyclist going in the same direction as you until you have safely passed the bicycle.
• Be extra careful when turning left in front of an oncoming bicycle or turning right across the path of a bicycle. You should wait for a bicyclist to pass in the opposite direction before making a left turn. Let a bicyclist going the same direction as you on the right go through the intersection first before making a right turn.
• Watch for child riders who might turn in front of you without looking.
• Be extra cautious in school zones and neighborhood areas, particularly before and after school.
• Watch for bikes coming out of driveways or from behind parked cars or other obstructions.

Do you use extra caution when driving now that school is back in session? If you don’t, you should.

Ultimately, it is up to adult drivers to keep the roads safe for children on their way to and from school. With a little extra awareness and caution, you can avoid potentially devastating accidents and injuries.

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