School’s In Session – Stay Alert

It’s hard to believe, but school has already resumed in many parts of the country. After months of driving without encountering school buses or hoards of children walking to and from school, drivers can often forget the challenges of driving in school zones. Here are some important things to remember now that school’s back in session.

Respect the Yellow Bus

  • Know the laws for sharing the road with school buses. In particular:

    • It is illegal in all 50 states to pass a school bus that is stopped to load or unload children. Yellow flashing lights indicate the bus is preparing to stop; red flashing lights and an extended stop sign arm indicates that children are getting on or off the bus.

    • Traffic in both directions must stop on undivided roadways when students are entering or exiting a school bus. State laws on divided highways vary, but all states require that traffic traveling in the same direction as the bus must stop.

  • Children are most in danger of being hit in a 10 feet perimeter around a school bus. Give them space to safely enter and exit.

  • Never pass a school bus on the right; it is illegal and could have tragic consequences.

  • School buses stop at all railroad crossings, so don’t follow too closely.

Watch For Pedestrians & Bicyclists

  • Don’t block a crosswalk when stopped at a red light or waiting to make a turn. Forcing pedestrians to go around your vehicle puts them in danger. In school zones with blinking warning flashers, you must stop and yield to pedestrians whether there is a marked crosswalk or not.

  • Avoid honking the horn or revving your engine when pedestrians or bicyclists are in front of your vehicle in a crosswalk. You can startle them and cause an accident.

  • Children can be difficult to see, especially at dawn or dusk when visibility is reduced. Pay particular attention in school zones and residential areas, as well as near playgrounds and parks.

  • Children are unpredictable and will often take risks, ignore hazards or fail to look both ways before crossing the street. Be alert, particularly to those distracted by cell phones.

  • When passing a bicyclist proceeding in the same direction, do so slowly and leave at least a distance of three feet between you and the bicyclist. Maintain this clearance until you have safely passed the bicycle. If you don’t have sufficient room, do not attempt to pass.

  • The most common causes of collisions with bicycles are when drivers are turning left in front of an oncoming bicycle or turning right, across the path of the bicycle. Be sure to use your turn signals and allow the bicyclist to pass before making the turn.

  • Watch out for bikes coming out of driveways or from behind parked cars or other obstructions.

Remember the School Zone Rules

  • Observe the posted speed limit and be prepared to stop.

  • Obey all school zone warning signs and instructions from patrol officers and crossing guards.

  • School zones are home to newly-licensed, inexperienced teenage drivers. Slow down and remain attentive.

  • Be patient when you encounter heavy traffic in school zones during peak times.