As the 2016-2017 school year kicks off for most this week, we all know that school days bring traffic congestion. Yellow school buses are picking up their charges, kids on bikes are hurrying to get to school before the bell rings, harried parents are trying to drop their kids off before work.
It’s never more important for drivers to slow down and pay attention than when kids are present – especially before and after school.
Drivers should be aware of school traffic, and should take extra caution when driving, as school zones become more active, and should be aware of school bus safety as well.
“You’d be surprised at how many times people fly around a bus to pass,” explained former bus-driver Barb Eldridge. Eldridge recently retired from Minford Local Schools after driving for over 15 years. “We always did safety drills, to make sure students knew how to propely exit in case of an emergency, and I always made sure that we included practice on safe-crossing as well. All my kids knew to wait, look for cars, and then look for my hand signals as well. It’s not the kids we ever really worried about, it was the motorists. They just don’t care. They’re in too big of a hurry to get where they’re going.”
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a pedestrian struck by vehicle traveling at 20 mph is about two-thirds less likely to be killed as compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 30 mph.
“School zone speed limits are in place to save lives,” says Terri Rae Anthony, AAA East Central Safety Advisor. “As families prepare for the upcoming school year, we encourage parents to talk about the importance of school zone safety with their children and teen drivers.”
School buses are on the road 180 days of the year, and in the state of Ohio alone, there are over 16,000 buses, which transport 800,000 students.
Research by the National Safety Council states that most of the children who lose their lives in bus-related incidents are 4 to 7 years old, and they’re walking. They are hit by the bus, or by a motorist illegally passing a stopped bus. A few precautions go a long way toward keeping children safe.
In Ohio, when the bus comes to a complete stop, the amber lights stop flashing and four red lights—two in front and two in back—start flashing while the children enter or leave the bus. In addition, a stop arm with flashing red lights is automatically extended beneath the window on the left side of the bus. If the bus is stopped on a street or road which has fewer than four lanes, all traffic approaching the bus from either direction must stop at least 10 feet from the front or rear of the bus and remain stopped until the bus begins to move or the bus driver signals motorists to proceed.
Here are some tips for motorists to keep in mind this school year:
- Slow down.
- Ditch distractions. Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing.
- Stay alert. Don′t rush into and out of driveways. Expect pedestrians on the sidewalk, especially around schools and in neighborhoods.
- Stop at stop signs. It sounds obvious, but research shows that more than one third of drivers roll through stop signs in school zones or neighborhoods.
- Watch for bikes. Children on bicycles are often unpredictable; expect the unexpected.
- Brake for buses. It may be tempting to drive around a stopped school bus, but not only is it dangerous, it′s against the law.
- Plan ahead. Leave early for your destination and build in extra time for congestion. If possible, modify your route to avoid school zones.
Inform students. Make sure your student knows how to safely cross the road before boarding and after leaving the bus. Safely crossing should include watching school bus lights and knowing what the lights mean, watching for traffic, looking both ways, no running, making eye contact with the bus driver, waiting for the hand signal from the bus driver before entering the street, knowing what the horn means, and knowing what to do if the bus driver sounds the horn.
- For drop-off’s. Know your school’s drop-off policy. Some will differ, but the
The following apply to all school zones: Don’t double park; it blocks visibility for other children and vehicles. Don’t load or unload children across the street from the school. Carpool to reduce the number of vehicles at the school. For more information, contact your district.
For more information about Ohio Bus Safety and Traffic Laws, please contact the Ohio Department of Transportation or the Bureau of Motor Vehicles and your local school district.
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