The month of September means chillier weather, changing leaves and the return of football. But it also marks the beginning of a new school year. And with students riding the bus or walking to and from class, the increased traffic flow on neighborhood streets gives drivers an added reason to be cautious behind the wheel this fall in an effort to reduce pedestrian fatalities and injuries.
Respect the Flashing Lights
When it comes to back-to-school driving tips, none may be more important than obeying all traffic signs, signals and laws in and around schools. According to a study by Safe Kids Worldwide – a nonprofit aimed at preventing childhood injury – one in six motorists are distracted by an electronic device while driving through a school zone, which means that they may not be looking both ways, sharing the road or following the 15 mph speed limit.
Additionally, when driving behind or approaching a school bus, it’s essential to come to a complete stop until the vehicle’s lights stop flashing and its crossing arm has been lowered. Passing a stopped bus, regardless if you’re driving on a two or four lane road, is illegal in every state and you could face a fine and/or license suspension if found in violation.
Furthermore, school buses tend to make sudden stops without warning, which is why it’s advised not to tailgate or follow a bus too closely. Instead, leave at least two car lengths behind or in front of a bus so students have plenty of room to cross the street.
Watch your Speed during Rush Hour
For a majority of drivers, the morning commute to work can be one of the most stressful parts of the day. If you sleep through your alarm or get stuck in rush hour traffic, you might think that driving slightly above the speed limit can help make up for lost time and ensure that you clock in before your boss. However, speeding is never the solution because it puts you, pedestrians and other motorists in danger.
Between 7 and 9 a.m. – the beginning of the school day – students either stand on the curb waiting for the bus or opt to bike or walk to class. And, depending on their age, they might not be paying attention to their surroundings and inadvertently walk in front of traffic.
As a result, drivers must obey all posted speed limits in residential areas where students are likely to be walking, especially if the street lacks a sidewalk, and look both ways before slowly proceeding from a stop sign. The same rule also applies between 2-4 p.m., when students begin making their way home.
Always Remain Alert
Under ideal driving conditions, it takes the average motorist three-quarters of a second to identify a potential hazard, process the situation and devise a plan to avoid the threat. But, unfortunately, most drivers aren’t necessarily fully alert behind the wheel due to cell phone use, which reduces their reaction time.
Children, particularly those in elementary or middle school, might dart in front of traffic when a crossing guard isn’t present in a rush to get home. Because of this, the need to set your smartphone aside, keep both hands on the wheel and stay alert at all times is heightened during the school year.
Moreover, since every vehicle has a blind spot, always use extra caution when backing up in your neighborhood during morning and afternoon school travel hours. Most students nowadays wear headphones while walking to the bus stop, so they may not be able to hear your car in reverse.
By simply slowing down in and around school zones, being aware of possible hazards and always remaining alert when behind the wheel, you can be a more cautious driver and help make the school year safer for students in your neighborhood.
For more driving tips, or to ensure that your vehicle is ready for the school year, give Andy’s Auto Service in Bridgeville a call or visit the website.