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Back to School Safety for Drivers

The end of August is often dreaded by many kids. With September right around the corner, they only have a couple of weeks to finish their summer projects or get those extra hours of sleep. This time of year can also bring a lot of stress to parents. Whether it be helping their kids gather new supplies or just getting back in the mindset of the school routine, parents want to make sure their kids are ready for the new school year.

Once the new school year begins, you can be sure that the Long Island traffic will get worse. Highways will be filled with a few more college students. Bus routes will frequent the morning and afternoons. Kids and teens will be walking on the sidewalk or riding their bikes and many parents will be dropping off their kids by the entrance. Whether or not you have kids, all drivers need to account for this traffic and take the necessary preparations so that everyone can be safe.

For Parents Driving Their Kids

If you are a parent driving your kid to school, there are a couple of things you can do to make the trip a little safer every day.

  • Carpool: With all the car clutter that happens at the beginning and end of a school day, reducing the number of cars around the schools and parking lots creates a safer environment for everyone. If possible, why not make arrangements with other parents nearby to carpool to school together. An added bonus for parents since they now wouldn’t have to drive their kid to school every day of the week.
  • Unload on the same side of the street as the school: When you are unloading your child, dropping them off at a location where they have to cross the street makes a worst-case-scenario possible every day. Drop your children off where they don’t even have to cross the parking lot to reach the entrance if possible.
  • Never double park: It might be tempting to quickly double park to drop off your kid but doing so creates a dangerous situation for the entire road. It greatly reduces visibility for other drivers or students who need to cross the street.

For Regular Drivers

It goes without saying that driver’s need to follow all the traffic laws regarding schools and school busses. Even though every driver knows this, these laws are often neglected. Still, one in five children (under 15) who were killed in a traffic accident were pedestrians.

  • Be observant: Look out for young pedestrians especially in the morning and afternoon. Take extra caution when around school zones, playgrounds and residential areas.
  • Observe School Zone Speed Limit: Kids are more unpredictable then regular pedestrians. So it is imperative for drivers to be extra careful at school zones and need to follow the school zone speed limit. Whether parents are dropping their kids off or kids are walking themselves, many could be crossing the streets at these school zones. Not every school has a crossing guard and you do not want to be speeding when a kid runs across the street without warning.
  • Stop for Buses: Drivers also need to stop when a bus has stopped to pick up students. Remember, when the stop sign on the bus is out, that means drivers on both sides of the road need to stay stopped until the sign has retreated. Give plenty of space for kids to cross the street to board the bus. Even after the bus has left, wait a couple of seconds or move slowly down the street. Sometimes when a kid is late for the bus they might run across the street without paying attention to try and catch the bus.
  • Leave Crosswalks Open: Always follow the direction of the crossing guard. Even if there is no one waiting to cross the street, do not block the crosswalk at a red light. If a student were to cross the street, they now might have to walk in moving traffic as they walk around your car.
  • Leave earlier: While these safety measures seem self explanatory, the extra traffic that comes with the school year means extra delays on the way to our commutes. Drivers have no problem obeying traffic laws when there is no rush. But when traffic causes possible lateness at work or other appointments, that is when drivers begin to make poor decisions. Rather then putting yourself in the stressful situation that you are running late due to school traffic, make the preparations necessary so you are not tempted to rush. There are many web mapping service applications (such as Maps for iOS and Google Maps) that can pretty accurately predict how long it will take to get somewhere with traffic in mind. Make the necessary adjustments and leave your home early enough to be ready if school buses and increased traffic cause delays.

Teach Your Kids Pedestrian Safety

If your son or daughter walks to school every day it is very important that you teach them the proper pedestrian safety so that they can prevent dangerous situations. Distraction is the biggest problem with child pedestrian safety. Statistically, teenagers have a higher risk of getting a fatal pedestrian injury the older they are. The main cause of this involves these teens being distracted while they are walking.

As you probably guessed, the distractions stem from smart phones. Teens can use their smart phones to text, browse social media and listen to music. According to a study at the most common distraction for young pedestrians were wearing their headphones to listen to music, with texting being a close second. It is important that you warn your teenagers of the dangers of being distracted while walking to school.

Children usually aren’t ready to start walking to school without a parent until they are 10. If you plan to let your children walk by themselves when they’re older, it’s a good idea to walk with them to school when they are young so they are familiar with the neighborhood. When they do eventually walk alone, it would be ideal for your child to walk with at least one neighbor or sibling so that they are never alone. It is best to show your child a route that has crossing guards and sidewalks.

We are wishing parents and students alike a safe and productive school year.