Our View: School’s back, so slow down and pay attention

For the past year and a half, when we’ve driven by schools, many motorists may have wondered if there were children inside. Should you slow to the posted school speed limit?

Today, as schools reopen for the fall, the answer is unquestionably yes, because all public school children have returned to school amid the pandemic. Yellow school buses are filling the roads in the early morning, midday and afternoon hours. It’s a welcome sight, but one that requires extra caution. Drivers need to slow down and pay attention when children may be around.

According to National Safety Council research, most of the children killed in bus-related incidents are ages 4 to 7, and they’re walking. They are hit by the bus, or by a motorist illegally passing a stopped bus.

Besides buses, drivers also need to be even more aware of children walking to school and riding their bikes. And parents have to be more aware of the rules schools have set for drop-off and pick-up of children.

The National Safety Council offers motorists school safety tips.

If you’re dropping off:

  • Don’t double park; it blocks visibility for other children and vehicles.
  • Don’t load or unload children across the street from the school.
  • Carpool to reduce the number of vehicles at the school.

Sharing the road with school buses: If you’re driving behind a bus, allow a greater following distance than if you were driving behind a car.

  • Never pass a bus from behind – or from either direction if you’re on an undivided road – if it is stopped to load or unload children
  • If a school bus’ yellow or red lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended, traffic must stop.
  • 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.

Sharing the road with bicyclists:

  • When turning left and a bicyclist is approaching from the opposite direction, wait for the rider to pass.
  • If you’re turning right and a bicyclist is approaching from behind on the right, let the rider go through the intersection first, and always use your turn signals.
  • Watch for bikes coming from driveways or behind parked cars.
  • Check side mirrors before opening your door.

And a few other precautions to keep children safe:

  • Don’t block the crosswalk when stopped at a red light or waiting to make a turn, forcing pedestrians to go around you; this could put them in the path of moving traffic.
  • Always stop for a school patrol officer or crossing guard holding up a stop sign.
  • Never pass a vehicle stopped for pedestrians.

Let’s all do our part to practice extra care and caution on the road to make sure this is a safe school year.