It’s easy to tell when school’s back in session. Traffic congestion increases and there are more people on the sidewalks. But the afternoon hours can be dangerous for school children  almost 1 out of 4 child pedestrian fatalities takes place between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Any driver navigating roads around school zones must learn to safely share the road with buses, school children, and other drivers. Here are a few back-to-school driving tips that can help everyone stay safe.

Pedestrians

Crowds of walkers (children and parents alike) can clog otherwise quiet streets and sidewalks when school’s in session. Intersections and crosswalks that go unmanned during the summertime and non-school hours may now be staffed by a crossing guard or school patrol officer. Slow down as you approach crosswalks and remember to:

  • Stop and yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk
  • Never block a crosswalk when waiting to make a turn or stopping at a red light
  • Always stop for crossing guards holding a stop sign
  • Watch for children in school zones, playgrounds, and parks
  • Never pass a vehicle that’s stopped for pedestrians
  • Check for children near your vehicle before reversing

School zones 

Not all drivers realize that schools have very specific drop-off and pick-up procedures during the school year. If you’re participating in drop-off and pick-up, do your due diligence before the first day of school and become familiar with the rules for your school. All drivers passing through a school zone must remember to:

  • Avoid double parking in a school zone
  • Avoid loading or unloading children across the street from a school or in an otherwise undesignated area
  • Obey reduced speed limits in school zones
  • Always come to a complete stop at stop signs

School buses 

In all 50 states, it’s illegal to pass a stopped school bus that’s either loading or unloading children. When driving near a school bus:

  • Slow your vehicle and stay alert
  • Never pass a school bus when it’s loading or unloading children
  • Stop all vehicles when the bus’s yellow or red lights are flashing and/or its stop sign is extended

Bicycles (and skateboards, scooters, and more)

You might be prepared to slow down for pedestrians when negotiating back-to-school traffic. But you should also be mindful of students using bicycles and other alternative modes of transportation to and from school.

  • Slow down in school zones, residential neighborhoods, and whenever approaching someone on a bike or other mode of transport
  • Allow at least 3 feet of passing space between bike riders and vehicles
  • If a bicyclist is approaching in the opposite direction, wait for the rider to pass before attempting to make a turn
  • If a bicyclist is approaching from behind on your right, always let the rider go through the intersection first
  • Be aware that a bike rider might turn or cross your path without looking or signaling first
  • Watch out for bikes around driveways and parked cars
  • Always check your side mirrors before opening your car door

Distracted driving and walking

Distracted driving increases risks for pedestrians and drivers alike. But distracted walking similarly puts both drivers and pedestrians at risk. Whether texting while walking or “multitasking” behind the wheel, distraction is dangerous for everyone, so minimize interference and always do your best to focus on the task at hand.

Safe and smart | Car safety

about Rebecca

Rebecca is a freelance copywriter and editor living in the SF Bay Area with her husband and two kids. She enjoys productively channeling her anxiety into safety-minded articles for home and garden, running with her robot trainer, and advocating on behalf of the Oxford comma.