It's Back-To-School Time! September is said to be the most dangeroud month for pedestrian accidents as parents and students are getting back into the swing of things. Here are a few safety tips to follow to ensure a safe school year for you and our younger residents:
How to Drive Safely Around School Buses
Back to school means school buses are back out on the roads, carrying children to and from school. Do you know the laws and safe practices for avoiding accidents with school buses and school bus pedestrians? You should always:
- Give the bus extra space: For your own safety and the safety of school bus passengers, it’s a good idea to give school buses a wide berth. You should also yield right of way when school buses when in our parking lots or on the freeway. They’re practically the size of an 18‐wheeler, after all! It’s also important to give them space because buses often stop suddenly to load or unload children.
- Be aware of laws school buses have to follow: School buses are required to stop at railroad crossings and travel at slower speeds than the rest of traffic. Be prepared to deal with these situations if you’re driving behind a school bus.
- Be hyper‐vigilant about school bus loading and unloading: When buses stop to let children on or off, you should be on high alert. Why? Because it can be difficult to see them, and this is often a very dangerous time for children to walk on the road. In fact, 30% of fatal school age pedestrian accidents include being struck by a vehicle on the road. When a school bus stops, so should you. Wait until you’re sure every child is clear of the road. Be aware that children may be running nearby to get on the bus on time or rush home as soon as possible. If there are no sidewalks, children may walk in the street. And never, ever pass a school bus on the right side, as that is where children enter and exit the vehicle.
- Follow school bus stopping laws: Laws will vary by state, but in general, you must stop with a bus on a non‐divided road or highway. A good general rule is to obey school bus signs, says Child Passenger Safety Certified Technician Grainne Kelly. “When a school bus is stopped and has its red lights flashing and the stop sign extended, be sure to stop in both directions until all kids are safely across the street and the bus lights stop flashing,” she says.
Safety for Bus Riders
Riding on a school bus is designed to be safe — and it’s often fun. In fact, the NHTSA reports that school buses are the safest mode of transportation for getting students back and forth to school, and are designed to be safer than passenger vehicles. But it’s important for students to practice basic safety rules to make sure that everyone gets to and from school without injury or accident. Share these guidelines with your student, whether they’re a regular or occasional bus rider (field trips count!):
- Be extremely careful getting on and off the school bus: School bus passengers are susceptible to accidents with nearby cars that may not be following school bus laws or paying attention. Pedestrians and bike riders must watch carefully, and only cross into roadways when it’s clearly safe to do so. Practice safety by walking with a group, looking both ways before and while crossing the street, walking on sidewalks, and only crossing at intersections — not in the middle of the street.
- Wear a seat belt if available: Not all school buses come equipped with seat belts, but if your school bus has one, by all means, use it. Seat belts are designed to keep passengers safe in the event of a crash, and they can be life saving, preventing ejection from the bus or injury from being thrown around inside. Even if no seat belt is available, be sure to stay seated at all times unless loading or unloading.
- Respect the bus driver: Students should obey bus driver instructions, cooperate, and avoid talking to the driver while the bus is moving. Distractions are dangerous to any driver, but especially to school bus drivers, who are moving a large vehicle, often during busy times on the road.
- Be on time: It’s often hectic making it to the bus on time, but for safety reasons, it’s important that you do so. Rushing to make the bus can be very dangerous, leading passengers to ignore pedestrian safety and run in roads, increasing the chance of an accident. Play it safe and do whatever you can to be early for the bus so you don’t have to rush. Most school systems recommend arriving about five minutes early. While you’re waiting, be sure to stand on the sidewalk, or otherwise away from the road. CFBISD Bus Route Information can be download here.
- Avoid walking in front of or behind the bus unless the driver is aware: School buses often have limited visibility with the road immediately in front of and behind them, so as a pedestrian, these are the most dangerous places to be around a bus. When you get off the bus, make sure that the driver sees you. Make eye contact, and walk far enough ahead of the bus (about 10 to 12 feet) so that you are visible to the driver. Never cross behind a bus, and be sure to look for other vehicles on the road. If you drop anything near the bus, go to the driver and tell them you need to pick it up so that they are aware you’re still there.
General Driving Safety Tips
While walkers and bikers should be vigilant on streets and in parking lots, it’s up to drivers to be safe, too. “One of the most common statements heard by injured pedestrians is ‘I didn’t see you,'” says auto accident attorney Michael E. Gumprecht. “Often this is because a driver fails to maintain a proper lookout, thus they ‘didn’t see’ simply because they were negligent.” here are a few driving safety tips to reminder during this Back-to-School Season:
- Avoid distractions: “There are endless distractions to drivers inside their cars that occur without thinking—and that’s the problem,” says Gumprecht. “The next time you get in your car, make a conscious effort to note the reason you take your eyes of the road each time it happens. No matter the reason, you can find a solution to change the behavior—you simply have to be conscious about it. Awareness of your own weaknesses is key to safer driving—lifelong guilt for you and pain for the injured isn’t worth taking the risk.” Don’t use your phone or eat behind the wheel, keep your eyes on the road, and avoid having serious conversations with your kids in the car on the way to or from school — save it for the breakfast or dinner table.
- Obey the speed limit and traffic laws: The easiest way to avoid an accident at school is to slow down. At lower speeds, you’ll have a better reaction time and will be able to more carefully watch out for kids on foot or on bike that my not be as careful as you are. The community speed limit is 5 mph.
- Be extra aware even before you get to school: Students may be walking or biking to class. That means you should be on alert for pedestrians and bikers from the moment you get into your car. Don’t forget to look carefully and back out slowly when leaving your driveway.
- Expect the unexpected: Students may not be well versed in the rules of traffic safety, so always be prepared for unexpected surprises. They may dart out in between cars, be hidden in the street around turns, or not wait to cross intersections. Be sure to make eye contact and avoid making a move until you’re sure of where they are moving to. “It is imperative to double and triple check crosswalks,” says Kelly. “Even if school has started, it is not unheard of for a late child to jump out into the cross walk in an attempt to get to school as quickly as possible. Make a full stop at stop lights and stop signs to insure the coast is clear before moving forward. Recognize that kids are kids and do not always follow the rules so they may not always cross the street at the crosswalk or follow all traffic laws when biking to school. When driving around a school area, drive slowly and be vigilant about keeping both eyes on the road and surrounding areas at all times.”
- Be mindful of bicycle safety: Many students may ride a bike to school. Be careful by allowing extra space when passing, slowing down, and even thinking of bikes as cars — with less protection for the passenger. Watch for signals and try to give them as much right of way as possible.
- Be aware even beyond school hours: Kelly points out that school traffic may happen even when classes aren’t in session. If there’s a special activity like a school play or football game, you can expect traffic, pedestrians, and bicyclists, and you’ll need to be just as careful then as you are during pick up and drop off.