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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 safekids.org 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.
It’s that time of year. The students dread it, of course. Unfortunately, some of us dread it too. School buses will be taking over your neighborhood side roads and main roads, school zone speed limits are in effect, and kids are walking and biking to and from school. You have to be cognizant about all of this, as it can directly affect your daily commute and more. The last thing you want is to have to rush to your job every day for ¾ of the year. But the first thing we feel obligated to go over is how to drive safely now that school is in effect, for you, others on the road, and for the children walking to and from school.
Have a Child Going to School Yourself?
When it comes to dropping your kids off at school, safety always comes first – kids get hit by cars more often at school zones than any other locations. That’s a serious reason to follow these tips on back to school safety if you’re dropping your kids off:
- First and foremost, consider carpooling – if you are friends with and trust another parent and their kid(s), they live near you and take their kids to the same school, it might be a good idea to ask if they can take your child there as well – this helps reduce road congestion and will help you get to your job on time
- Never load up or drop children off across the street from school – always drop them off as close to the school as permitted so they never have to cross the road to get to school
- Never double-park (parking in two spaces at once) even if you are in a rush – it’s the law for good reason, and in this particular case, it can block access for other cars as well as visibility for other cars and children attempting to get into school safely
We cannot overstate how important it is to recognize the increase of child pedestrians as school starts. Know how to share the road with them safely.
There Will Be Kids Walking – Know How to Safely Share the Road with Them
Kids are much less likely to know how to be safe pedestrians than you are to know how to be a safe driver. It’s your job to take precautions.
- Never block a cross-walk, which means take it slow when you know one is coming up – if you block the cross walk, you’re forcing kids to walk around your vehicle, which can potentially put them in the way of oncoming traffic
- Never, ever pass a vehicle that is stopped for pedestrians – this may go without saying but if you see a vehicle stopped during the school year, even if they have their hazards on, slow down to see if they are stopped for pedestrians and if they are, do so as well
- When lights are flashing in a school zone, yield for pedestrians, and listen to patrol officers (it’s their job to have the best view on the children)
- Always take caution and drive slowly around school zones, parks, and all residential areas
- Never try to pass a school bus – if they have their stop sign out, stop – and stop even if they don’t (bus drivers can make mistakes)
- When it comes to pedestrians, especially children, right-of-way isn’t always the safest route – yield for pedestrians, even if you have the right-of-way, to avoid pedestrian accidents
- When a bus puts its red lights on and expands its stop sign, wait behind them, even if there are two lanes (don’t pull up to the stop sign, stop behind the bus), even after the bus departs and lowers their stop sign, YOU yourself must ensure there are no more lingering children crossing the street before accelerating – not all children know the safe rule of crossing behind the school bus, and not all bus drivers can see if one is crossing in front – taking this precaution is all to necessary
Now that we’ve gone over some safety measures you can take to protect yourself and others, let’s go over how you can be smart and safe about getting to work on time, even with back-to-school road congestion.
Think Out Your New Route
You might be used to an easy route out of your neighborhood, onto the main road, and then onto the highway to get to where you need to go. Now that the buses are on the road, you’ll have to reroute your route, both safely and wisely…
- After Labor Day, you’ll see busses starting to roam your neighborhood – it’s time to start adding time to your morning routine
- Take a mental note of every time (on the dot) you get held up behind a school bus and exactly where (also, on the dot)
- Find detours to avoid these bus stops
- Rarely do we ever see school busses making a left onto a main road without a traffic light there – unfortunately, this might hinder you as well if you’re stuck behind a bus – we don’t suggest you ever make a left turn without a light, especially on dangerous road with multiple lanes
- If this is the case, we suggest scouting your neighborhood to see if there’s another way out of it and onto your course – suburban neighborhoods like Long Island are designed with so many different ways to get to where you need to go, even straight toward the highway out of your development
- Always put a safe distance between you and the bus in front of you – it is dangerous to follow too closely to a bus in general, but atop that, if you are passing a light, and you can’t see above the bus, you may run a red light while they’re going through a yellow light you simply cannot see
- Synchronize what you’ve learned within the first few weeks of school to find a quicker route to work and give it a try (with extra time in the morning still)
- Lastly, remember, that road congestion isn’t reserved for the morning; extra-curricular activities may overcrowd the road on your commute home as well
So, know the extra safety precautions we all must take when school starts next week, and follow them. More and more kids are driving to school. And even though it’s always every driver’s obligation to be safe on the road, the fact remains that these kids may not have as much driving experience as you. Going to sleep a little earlier and adding time to your morning routine so you can safely share the road with school buses is paramount to your safety and the safety of others on the road.
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