When school is in session, the roads become more hazardous, especially in school zones. School buses are on the roads again, pickup and dropping off children, and many students are on bicycles or walking to get to school. Parents are rushing to drop their children off before heading off for their own busy day, often distracted by what is facing them at work. In Minnesota, there are specific rules about school bus stops as well as how drivers must operate their vehicles in school zones to keep everyone safe.
Driving in a school zone
If you enter a school zone, slow down and be extra vigilant in watching the road. Watch for crosswalks and be sure to stop if there are children present. Some school zones may have crossing guards to direct you when to stop and go. Children may dart from between parked cars without looking, so watch for them as you are driving. If you must stop, be sure that you do not stop in the crosswalk as this forces pedestrians to walk into the street where it is not safe. Watch for vehicles that may stop suddenly in front of you to keep from getting involved in a motor vehicle accident.
Dropping off and picking up children
Most schools have a specific traffic pattern used for picking up or dropping off students. Always follow that pattern. It is better to be late than to cause a car crash or hit a child because you don’t follow the proper pattern. You shouldn’t drop your children off across the street from the school. Avoid double parking as this may block the visibility of other drivers as well as children who may be walking or bicycling.
School bus stops
If you are following a school bus, keep a safe distance behind it to allow for stops. The usual recommendation is at least three car lengths. Watch for the flashing lights of the bus, which may come on without warning. Treat the yellow flashing lights the same as the red flashing lights by decreasing your speed and coming to a stop. This is also true as you approach a school bus from the front. The 10-foot area around the bus is the most dangerous for children, so keep your vehicle out of the danger zone.
Many traffic patterns change in the fall when school resumes, so it’s important to be alert and cautious. These tips can help you keep children safe as they head back to school.