No matter how old you are, there is an undeniable excitement in the air when a new school year begins. With that excitement, however, comes a renewed sense of urgency. Schedules begin to fill up just as the roadways begin to fill up with more vehicles and school buses join the road as students and teachers commute to class.
Whether you have a child in school, are a student yourself, or are a teacher or administrator, the last thing on your mind may be about safety concerns on the road between your home and the classroom.
It’s a sad fact that in many communities throughout the United States, more children are hit by cars near schools than at any other location. The gravest accidents usually happen to those who are 4 to 7 years old and are walking to class. In addition, more high school students are involved in traffic accidents within weeks after school starts, and especially for those who start class earlier in the morning than students with a later start time.
However, back to school accidents are entirely preventable if drivers are mindful. Traffic safety begins with preparation to share the road with other vehicles. This is particularly true during the school year when so many people are trying to get to the same place at the same time.
School’s in Session, Share the Roads
The state of Connecticut is home to more than 550,000 students in kindergarten through high school. Add to that number the 44,000 teachers, not to mention the school administrators and district employees. Don’t forget to add Connecticut’s 41 colleges and universities and their students and faculty. That’s a lot of people on the road.
It’s important to be aware that if your regular commute takes place around the same time school starts, you are likely to suffer delays. Rather than be surprised and frustrated by this, give yourself some extra time to get to your destination, or adjust your schedule to leave the house before or after the school day begins.
Drivers must also be ready to share the road with a greater variety of vehicles and pedestrians—this includes school buses and bicycles as well as skateboards, scooters and people walking to class. Increased awareness of traffic is crucial to preventing back to school accidents.
We have prepared a list of additional safety tips for drivers to prevent back to school accidents and keep children of Connecticut safe. While pedestrians and bus drivers have responsibility to exercise proper care, remember that by driving, your choices have the greatest impact on traffic safety. By following the tips below, you will help protect your community so that everyone can get to class safely.
Avoid an Accident, Follow These Back to School Safety Tips
If you are in a car dropping off your students:
- Don’t double park; it blocks visibility for other children and vehicles
- Don’t load or unload children across the street from the school
- Develop drop-off and pick-up routines with your kids to protect their safety
- Carpool to reduce the number of vehicles around the school
If you are driving behind a bus:
- It is illegal to pass a school bus that is stopped to load or unload children
- The area 10 feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for children; stop far enough back to allow them space to safely enter and exit the bus
- Never pass a bus from behind if it is stopped to load or unload children
- If the yellow or red lights are flashing and the bus’s stop arm is extended, traffic must stop
- Allow a greater following distance than if you were driving behind a car. It will give you more time to stop once the yellow lights start flashing
- Be extra alert; children often move quickly and unpredictably
Watch Out for Students and Children
- Remember that legally, pedestrians have the right of way
- Never block the crosswalk
- In a school zone when flashers are blinking, stop for crossing pedestrians
- Always stop for a crossing guard holding up a stop sign
- Keep an eye out for children in school zones, near playgrounds and parks, and in all residential areas
- Don’t honk or rev your engine to hurry a pedestrian
- Never pass a vehicle stopped for pedestrians
Watch Out for Bikes, Too!
- Bear in mind that bicyclists have the same rights to the road as cars
- When passing a bicyclist, proceed in the same direction slowly, and leave 3 feet between your car and the cyclist
- When turning left and a bicyclist is approaching in the opposite direction, wait for the rider to pass
- Let bicycles go through intersections first, and always use your turn signals
- Watch for bicyclists turning in front of you without looking or signaling; children especially have a tendency to do this
- Watch for bikes coming from driveways or behind parked cars
- Check side mirrors before opening your door, especially when parked on the curb
By observing these driving tips, we can all make sure that Connecticut students, school faculty and staff have a safe and productive school year.