Even if you don’t have students in your home, back to school time effects everyone when it comes to driving. Now is the time of year when the school buses and backpacked pedestrians begin appearing everywhere and we all need to think about back to school safe driving. While we all can relate to the frustration of being “stuck” behind a school bus, it is important for everyone’s safety that we exercise patience and also know school bus traffic laws. It is equally important that we pay attention for students in school zones who may be excited or distracted as they make their way to and from school.
The National Safety Council reports that school buses are one of the safest forms of transportation for students. They caution, however, that more children are hurt or killed outside of the bus when they fail to watch where they are going, or when a motorist does not pay attention and illegally passes a stopped school bus.
The council offers the following points to remind drivers of school traffic safety laws and procedures:
- In all 50 states it is illegal to pass a school bus that has stopped to pick up or drop off children.
- In all 50 states traffic in both directions is required to stop on undivided roadways when students are being picked up and dropped off.
- State laws vary on divided roadway requirements, however in all cases, vehicles driving behind the bus, and moving in the same direction must stop when the bus does.
- Flashing yellow lights on a school bus indicate the bus driver is preparing to stop to load or unload passengers. Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign arm signals that the bus has stopped and children are exiting or entering the bus.
- A required distance of 10 feet around a school bus must be observed to allow sufficient space for children getting on or off the bus.
- Be on the lookout for children who may run or fail to observe safety rules when moving to and from the bus stop.
- Drivers should never block crosswalks when waiting to turn or stopped for a red light.
- In school zones be alert for warning flashers, and while you are in an active zone, be sure to yield the right-of-way to students crossing in the marked crosswalk.
If you know your morning route includes an area with school bus stops, come up with ways to help you safely share the road. Listen to music or a podcast to help you exercise patience with frequent stops. Leave a little early so you won’t have to stress about delays. Remember, the most important thing is that EVERYONE arrives at their destination safely!