6 Tips for Safely Navigating School Zone Traffic
It’s that time of year again. The school bags are stuffed, bus stops packed, and bike tires aired all in preparation to the back to school trek for Michigan’s 1.5 million school-age kids. Meanwhile, city roads continue to become increasingly congested at a growing number of key intersections and road segments throughout school zone communities. These factors are important as a recent study by Safe Kids Worldwide found approximately 100 children in the United States are killed every year while walking to or from school, and 25,000 others sustain serious injuries as a result of school zone crashes. This should hit all drivers with an increased responsibility to keep children safe in school zones.
You can help by following and sharing these tips collected by the auto accident team at Steinberg Law Firm.
- Learn Your School’s Traffic Safety Plan
Most Michigan school districts and cities do work closely together to ensure plans are in place for students as they are dropped off and picked up from school, but they are only as safe as the parents and relatives who are charged to follow them. Most school plans are posted on the district wide or individual school websites, so those responsible for getting kids to school should take the time to review those rules ahead of the school year for the safety of everyone. If your child’s school does not have a school zone drop off and pick up policy in place, work with them to develop one or follow these common practices instead.
- Don’t double park; it blocks visibility for other children, buses and vehicles.
- Avoid loading or unloading children across the street from the school unless a designated spot has been identified and a crossing guard is assisting.
- Arrange a carpool to reduce the number of vehicles at the school.
- Stop for Buses
Too many injuries to school children occur because impatient operators attempt to pass a school bus that is loading or unloading students. This is not only dangerous but prohibited under any circumstances since the law requires all drivers to come to a complete stop at least 20 feet from a school bus whenever a bus is using its two red flashing signals. Most children ages 4-7 will be hit by a motorist illegally passing a stopped bus. A few precautions go a long way toward keeping children safe so just slow down and prepare to stop whenever you see a school bus or lights flashing.
- Slow Down and Stay Off Your Phone
All drivers learned this rule in driver’s education but here is another reminder: Speed limits in school zones tend to be five to 10 miles per hour below the normal posted speed so be prepared to slow down. Michigan drivers need to ease up on their fast driving as the state has already ranked 13th most lenient of all U.S. states for risky driving and driving too fast.
In addition, road safety officials like AAA have the research that says nearly 95 percent of Michiganders gripe that texting while driving is their number one concern, yet most also admit to being guilty of it. Put the phone away while driving and pay attention to the young children who are sharing roads, parking lots, and driveways with you.
- Follow School Zone Signage, Obey Crossing Guards
New signage may pop up during school hours, especially at crosswalks or areas where drivers may not be used to having to stop completely. Pay special attention to intersections and don’t block the crosswalk when stopped at a red light or waiting to make a turn. This may force pedestrian children to be confused and have to go around you and into the path of moving traffic. And remember, in a school zone when flashers are blinking, or a crossing guard is guiding and assisting traffic, stop and yield to pedestrians crossing the crosswalk or intersection until it is safe to pass.
- Watch out for Bikes and Yield to Pedestrians
Michigan was home to far too many tragic bike accidents involving automobiles and trucks this summer, most involving children hit by drivers who made poor decisions such as speeding and driving while distracted. Let’s not carry the trend into the school year. Instead, always be on the lookout for kids on bicycles and beware of your blind spots when making turns. Use scanning and turn your head to see around the areas framing your windshield. Sometimes children on bikes may dart out mid-block from between parked vehicles or from a driveway rather hastily and will require you to be extra vigilant as to not hit them. In addition, at a stoplight, check to make sure no bikes are crossing in your path before you proceed. Remember these tips next time you are sharing the roads before or after school hours or while near a school zone.
- Adjust Your Route
If you have no business in a school zone but typically drive through that area to get yourself to work or other activities, it may just be best to adjust your commute and take a different way to avoid an accident with a child or another rushed driver, just as most drivers do to deter traveling through heavy traffic or construction zones. And if you live in an area where there are no sidewalks and bus stops, drive cautiously before and after school hours. Be more alert to the possibility of children walking in the road or playing while waiting.
While we continue to wait for communities to make roads safer for pedestrians and bicyclists or even reduce the average speed within city limits or around school zones, drivers need to keep their attention on driving at all times. And as the school year starts up and new routines come into play for most drivers, it remains never more important to slow down and pay attention than when kids are present.
Enjoy a Fun, Safe, and Injury Free School Year!
If you or your child has been injured in a school-zone related car or truck accident or while riding a school bus or bicycle, the motor vehicle accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Lee Steinberg are ready to use our decades of experience to get justice on behalf of you and your family. Whether its financial compensation, a settlement to help you move on, or the best medical care while you recover, opening a motor-vehicle case can help create change in a system that poses serious dangers to school-age children every single day.
Call us today for a risk-free, no-cost consultation at 1-800-LEE-FREE or fill out the Free Case Evaluation Form.