Back-to-School Safe Driving Checklist for Michigan Families Lee Steinberg Law Firm

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Safe Driving Checklist for Michigan Families with School-Age Children

Back-to-School Safe Driving Checklist for Michigan Families

Key Points of This Article:

  • The most common causes of school zone crashes are attributed to failure to control speed, driver inattention and distractions, and failure to yield right of way.
  • Child pedestrians injured or killed in Michigan traffic accidents during the schoolyear most often occur in Detroit’s urban communities.
  • Lack of school zone or school bus knowledge are possible causes for school year-related incidents in rural areas of the state, according to Michigan State Police, requiring drivers to keep an eye out for kids, slow down, stay alert, and always stop when approaching a school bus.
  • If you or your child become injured in a school-related accident this year, you can seek legal support to better understand your options for compensation and request help proving another driver’s negligence.

As the end of the summer has neared, and more than 1.5M students have returned to Michigan schools, it’s time to remind drivers of all ages and experience levels to be extra cautious. Morning and evening commutes from Troy and Ann Arbor may look different, and roads and intersections in Detroit and Dearborn have naturally become busier with young pedestrians, bicyclists, inexperienced drivers, and buses. And as with most motor vehicle accidents, school year crashes are largely preventable and the result of speeding, distraction, failure to yield right of way – or not stopping in time to prevent a collision. Do your part in keeping Michigan students and families safe from a car accident injury this school year with this easy checklist of reminders.

Prepare in Advance and Adjust Your Commute Time

New routines typically come hand-in-hand with a new school year. That is especially true for families who are now dropping children off at school before work and forced to adapt into driving routines that may feel rushed. Because of this, moms and dads may need to wake up sooner to prepare for the day and leave a few minutes earlier to accommodate the extra drive time. Work on being prepared before hitting the road and pack lunches, backpacks, and work bags in advance to avoid speeding and distracted with tasks while driving. Obey traffic laws and look for school zone signs to slow down, and don’t eat breakfast or groom during your morning commute as these tasks could take your attention off the road. If your child is part of a carpool or traveling with an older sibling to school, be sure everyone knows the rules like using seat belts, sitting in the appropriate child-size seat, and minimizing loud activities that may distract the driver.

Watch Out for Young Pedestrians and Kids Riding Bikes

According to the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning, there were 13 pedestrians injured for each pedestrian killed in 2019, including several young children. Many factors contribute to pedestrian and young bicyclist accidents, including distracted driving, speeding, changes in road patterns, a shift in SUV and light truck use, and impatient drivers. Keep an eye on children gathered at bus stops and be extra alert for those who might dart across the street, cut through parking lots or between vehicles on their bikes, skateboards, or scooters.

Know and Follow School Zone Rules

A “school zone”, as defined in MCL 257.628(1)(c), means school property on which a school building is located and the adjacent property and extends no more than 1,000 feet from the school property line in any direction. Michigan school zones are marked with visible signage, and many have special rules drivers are expected to follow related to designated areas and times to drop off and pick up students. Be sure you identify these safety guidelines at your child’s school and follow them.

Also, when approaching your child’s school zone, remain alert, obey the speed limit, and avoid using a cellphone or don’t browse social media sites or email while waiting in line. Distracted drivers remain significant contributors to school zone accidents. Cellphone use is banned in several Michigan school zones in addition to being illegal to text and drive in the state. Violators could be fined and lose school zone driver privileges.

Be Conscious of Aggressive Driving Due to Changes in School Zone Traffic Patterns

Watch for brake lights and be prepared to react to the traffic around you as vehicles like buses may slow, stop, or change lanes unexpectedly in or around school zones. At times, drivers may feel frustrated and angry when unable to travel at their desired speed or get stuck in congested traffic. If another driver turns aggressive towards you, don’t react in a way that may trigger additional safety issues. And if you feel yourself getting anxious, angry, or impatient while driving or waiting in traffic, try an alternative route or dropping your child off at a less busy time.

Understand Michigan School Bus Laws

School bus-related crashes killed 117 people nationwide in 2018, according to the most recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Bus-riding school-age children’s riskiest time to be injured or killed occurs when they enter or exit a bus and are struck by another vehicle. Drivers should be prepared to stop when a slowing bus has its overhead yellow lights flashing and stop at least 20 feet away for buses when red lights are flashing unless driving in the opposite direction on a divided highway.

As a reminder, in Michigan, school bus lights should be treated like traffic signals, and drivers should follow these laws.

  • Prepare to stop when overhead lights are flashing yellow
  • Stop when overhead lights are flashing red
  • Proceed with caution when hazard warning lights are flashing

According to the NHTSA, school buses are still the best option for transporting kids to school, safer than both walking or riding in a car. Be sure your kids are informed on when it is safe to cross a road, and know the enter and exit rules or signals bus drivers often use to help them.

Teach Your Teen Good Driver Behaviors

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says significant factors contributing to teen crashes are speeding, drinking or drugged driving, and distraction. Parents can help their young drivers by modeling good driving behaviors, discuss the risk of making dangerous distracted driving choices, and create a safe-driving contract to follow at the beginning of the school year. When mom or dad chooses to become involved in their child driver’s skill training, we see a greater reduction in collisions and less risk of related crash fatalities for their family.

Serious, Life-Long Injuries Can Occur When a Child Is Involved in a Motor Vehicle Accident

Even a young pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 10mph is likely to sustain injuries that may lead to long-term disabilities and pain and suffering, and leave their family to face financial strains to cover medical care, treatments and rehabilitation. Like being involved in a car crash as a young passenger, if a child is crossing the road on foot or a bike, waiting at a bus stop, or exiting or entering their bus and hit, their injuries could be life-threatening and involve:

  • traumatic brain injuries 
  • musculoskeletal injuries
  • soft tissue injuries and lacerations
  • chest and abdominal injuries
  • internal bleeding
  • spinal cord injuries
  • injuries to the upper and lower legs and knees
  • wrongful death

With your help, our attorneys and staff at the Lee Steinberg Law Firm, P.C., many who are also parents to young children, have high hopes for a happy and injury-free school year for Michigan kids and their families.

Our Michigan Car Accident Attorneys Are Ready to Help Your Family

The experienced attorneys at the Lee Steinberg Law Firm, P.C., have represented car accident victims for over 40 years, including children involved in school-related and school zone accidents. Please call our personal injury attorneys at 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733) and let us get started by hearing what happened. Family members who witness the accident can also submit a claim for emotional distress in some instances. You will pay nothing until we settle your case.

Also read: 6 Ways to Avoid School Zone Hazards