Summer’s officially over, and the beginning of the school year is upon us, bringing with it increased traffic as parents and school buses hit the roads again to get kids to and from school safely. Keeping this increase in traffic in mind is important for year-round commuters and all drivers, and a quick refresh on the rules of the road helps to keep everyone safe.
School Bus Basics
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, school buses are the safest mode of transportation for getting children back and forth to school. The greatest risk is not actually riding on the bus; but rather when kids are outside of the bus, either approaching or leaving the vehicle.
To help ensure safety of its passengers, it is illegal in all 50 states for a motorist to pass a school bus that has stopped to either load or unload children. Motorists are alerted that a bus is about to stop by flashing yellow lights mounted on the bus. Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign signal that the bus has come to a complete stop to load or unload children.
When a bus is stopped with its lights flashing, traffic in both directions of an undivided roadway must come to a complete stop to allow students to safely enter or exit the bus. State laws differ on whether or not drivers on a divided roadway going the opposite direction of the bus must stop. Traffic that is traveling the same direction as the bus (cars behind the bus) must always stop regardless of if the roadway is divided. Never pass a school bus on its right side. This is not only illegal, but also very dangerous.
Children are in most danger of being struck in the 10-foot radius around the bus. Be careful to stop your vehicle outside of this area to allow for the safest passage for bus riders. Whenever you find yourself in an area that has bus stops, be on guard. Children walking to and from the bus can be unpredictable and more likely to take risks that could result in an accident.
Generally speaking, pedestrians always have the right-of-way at all intersections. Stop to allow pedestrians plenty of time to cross safely. Children are the least predictable pedestrians and because of their smaller size, they can also be very difficult to see. When in school zones, residential areas, or near playgrounds and parks, slow down and take extra caution to look for child pedestrians.
When stopping at a crosswalk, try to avoid blocking the walk with any portion of your vehicle. Blocking the walk forces pedestrians to walk around your car and can put them in a dangerous situation.
In school zones when warning flashers are active, you must stop to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians crossing the road in marked crosswalks or at intersections with no marked crosswalk. Be sure to always obey the instructions given by school patrol officers and crossing guards.
About 12 percent of American children either bike or walk to school. Sharing the road with bicyclists is something that can cause a lot of frustration for drivers. However, bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as other roadway users in most cases. On most roads, bicyclists share the same travel lane as cars. Riders can be hard to see, and because they are not as protected, they can be severely harmed in a collision.
When passing a bicycle, try to pass as slowly as possible while keeping a minimum distance of three feet between your vehicle and the bicycle. Most accidents involving bicycles are the result of drivers making a left in front of an oncoming bike, or drivers turning right across the path of a bike. Take time to check if there are any cyclists before turning and if there are let them pass before you make your turn. Always remember to use your turn signals to let others know when you are about to turn. Take extra care to look for bicyclists coming out from driveways or in between parked cars.
By respecting the rules of the road and taking time to be aware of your surroundings everyone can expect to have a safe trip to and from school.