The school year means a change for motorists as well as children. While kids have to adjust to a new grade level, motorists have to adjust to changing driving conditions. During the summer, drivers do not encounter school buses frequently or do not need to drive slower in a school zone. Unfortunately, when school starts again, too many drivers fail to adapt to these changing conditions. AAA reports that, over the last decade, nearly one in four child pedestrian fatalities occurred between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. In Chicago, from 2007 to 2011, nearly 1,700 children between the ages of five and eighteen were hit by vehicles within a block of school, according to Edmunds.com. A national survey quoted by Edmunds found that two-thirds of motorists drove faster than the posted speed limit during the thirty-minute period before and after school. And automated photo enforcement measures found that seventy-eight percent of drivers sped in school zones, and eighty-two percent of drivers passed a school bus illegally. Here are some tips to ensure that you drive safely and legally in a school zone and near school buses.
School Zone Safety
Make sure to follow the school zone speed limit, which is usually twenty miles per hour or less. Studies have found that five percent of pedestrians hit by a vehicle at twenty miles per hour die, but the likelihood of a fatality increases to forty-five percent when the vehicle is traveling at thirty miles per hour, according to Edmunds.
You should always stop for crossing guards or other safety officials holding a stop sign. And do not immediately drive through an intersection after the crossing guard clears it because there might be a child or two lagging behind, recommends Edmunds.
If you are not dropping off any kids at school or picking them up from school, try to take a route that avoids school zones.
School Bus Safety
A yellow flashing light means the bus is preparing to stop. A red light means kids are getting on or off the bus. It is illegal for a car to pass a bus with its red light flashing. On two-lane roads, all traffic in both directions of travel must stop when encountering a stopped school bus, according to the Illinois State Police. On roads with four lanes or more, with traffic in both directions, vehicles traveling in the opposite direction of a stopped school bus do not need to stop. Motorists can resume driving after stopping for a school bus if the bus begins driving, the bus driver signals for the motorist to proceed, or the flashing lights turn off and the stop sign arm signal is not extended.
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