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Reading, 'Riting, 'Rithmetic and ... Road Rules?

Now that school is back in session in California, your morning commute probably just got a whole lot busier. Whether you're a parent hoping to keep your little ones safe as you drop them off at school or you're just trying to make it to work on time, the roads are suddenly much more congested.

Between the stops and starts of school buses picking up riders, hurried carpool drivers trying to drop off passengers and an increased number of pedestrians as parents walk little ones to school, it's one traffic hazard after another. While you cannot possibly predict every set of dangerous circumstances, there are some guidelines you can follow to keep yourself, your passengers and pedestrians as safe as possible.

When dropping children off

Most schools have specific protocols for morning drop-offs to help keep students safe; you may find it helpful to familiarize yourself with their rules. When in a school zone:

  • Don't unload children across the street from the school if you can avoid doing so.
  • Avoid double-parking, as it blocks visibility both for children and other drivers.
  • Consider setting up a carpool with other parents to reduce the number of automobiles at the school in the morning.

Remember, motor vehicle collisions injure more children near their schools than anywhere else.

When surrounded by young pedestrians

Children are unpredictable! Even though you may have the right of way, that probably won't make much difference to a distracted six-year-old, so you will want to always use extreme caution and proceed slowly to avoid striking young pedestrians. Additionally, safety advocates recommend the following:

  • Refrain from revving your engine or honking to scare a young pedestrian, even if they are dawdling or you have the right of way.
  • Do not pass other vehicles stopped for pedestrians.
  • While you wait at red lights or stop before turning, don't block crosswalks; this could result in crossing children trying to go around your car, thus placing themselves in the path of moving traffic.

Normal traffic laws still apply, of course, so you will want to obey crossing guards holding up stop signs and yield to pedestrians crossing at intersections or crosswalks, especially in school zones when flashers are blinking.

When sharing the road with school buses

When you find yourself driving behind a school bus, you will likely find it helpful to follow at a greater distance than you might otherwise with a regular car; doing so will give you more time to come to a stop a safe distance away once the bus's yellow lights start to flash. You already know that it's illegal to pass a school bus that is loading or unloading children, but were you aware that:

  • The 10-ft area surrounding the bus is the most dangerous area for children? You will want to stop a far enough distance away to allow them plenty of room to safely exit or enter the bus.
  • Children can be fearless? They often take risks and are unaware of safety hazards, so stay alert!
  • If a stopped school bus is loading or unloading, you should not pass from either direction if you're on an undivided road? When the bus's red or yellow lights are flashing and it extends its "Stop" arm, all traffic must come to a complete stop.

Data from the National Safety Council indicates that most children who lose their lives in a bus-related accident are between the ages of four and seven. It usually happens while they're walking and a driver of an illegally-passing car strikes them. No one should be in such a hurry that it results in the loss of a child's life, especially not when a few simple precautions can make all the difference.

Stay safe!

Of course, no matter how careful you are to take all necessary precautions, you cannot control the actions of other drivers. You will want to do everything you can to make sure your children stay safe. If you or your children suffer injury due to another driver's negligence, there are professional resources available to help.

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