If the kids in your neighborhood have not already started school, tomorrow will most likely kick off the new school year. Kids will be crawling out of bed early (many prompted by parents), stumbling to the kitchen table for breakfast, then grabbing the back pack and lunch on the way out the door.
Some will be standing on the corner waiting for the bus to arrive; others will be walking or riding their bikes, or hoping in the car. There will more motorists are on the roads during peak drop off and pick up times. With all this activity, the roadways are not only busier, but can be more dangerous.
School safety begins before children arrive at school and it doesn’t end until they arrive safely back home. Following are important reminders to keep our children safe as another school year begins.
- Be Alert. Remember that children are often unpredictable and sometimes fail to act cautiously when walking or riding their bike.
- Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks and at intersections. If stopped at a light, don’t block the crosswalk.
- Never assume the pedestrian sees (or hears) you.
- Pass slowly, and allow at least 3 feet between you and a bicyclist until you have completely passed.
- Yield to the bicyclist and walkers when turning at intersections.
- Take extra precautions in school zones and neighborhood areas where children may be riding or walking. Children can quickly dart out between parked cars or other objects.
- Never pass a stopped school bus loading or unloading children. Be alert to the bus’s signals: yellow flashing lights mean it is about to stop; a red flashing light and the extended stop sign indicates that children are getting on or off.
- When students are entering or exiting a bus, traffic in both directions must come to a complete stop.
- When entering a school zone, slow down and obey all traffic laws. Watch out for school crossing guards and obey their signals.
- Never pass other vehicles while driving in a school zone.
- Avoid all distractions especially using a cell phone.
School bus drivers carry a load of responsibility, the most obvious is to transport students to and from school in a timely and safe manner. Unfortunately, multi-tasking often becomes a common requirement. They not only have to drive safely and watch the road, but have responsibility for the conduct of students on their buses. Bus drivers must avoid distractions especially talking on the phone or texting while driving. Parents can help bus drivers avoid distractions, but reminding kids how to behave on the bus.
The most dangerous part of the school bus ride for a student is not actually the time spent on the bus, but during loading and unloading, reports NHTSA.
- When the bus approaches, stand at least three giant steps (6 feet) away from the curb.
- Wait until the bus stops, the door opens, and the driver says it is ok to board the bus.
- Never walk behind the bus.
- If you have to cross the street in front of the bus, walk on the sidewalk or along the side of the road to a point at least 3 giant steps ahead of the bus before you cross. Be sure that the bus driver can see you, and you can see the bus driver.
- If you drop something near the bus, tell the bus driver. Never try to pick it up because the driver may not be able to see you.
- Kids should never cross the street without an adult until they are at least 10 years old.
- Cross the street only at intersections or marked crosswalks.
- Follow crosswalk signs/signals. Do not cross when the sign reads “Do Not Walk,” even if there is not oncoming traffic.
- Do not cross in the middle of a street or between cars.
- After getting off the bus, wait until the bus has moved away before checking for traffic.
- Always walk, never run across intersections.
- Avoid walking on roads without sidewalks and crosswalks. If you must, walk facing traffic.
- Always look both ways before crossing the street. Continuously watch for traffic as you cross.
In addition to being exposed to traffic, bicycles present some specific safety concerns. Taking basic safety steps can help lessen the risk of a bicycle accident.
- Always wear a bicycle helmet, no matter how short the ride. The helmet should be approved by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
- Wear brightly colored clothing to help drivers see you more clearly.
- Ride with traffic.
- Stop and look both ways before entering the street.
- Stop at all intersections, whether marked or unmarked.
- Before turning, use hand signals and look in every direction.
- Only ride when there is plenty of daylight.
- Young children (up to age 9) should only ride with adult supervision, and never on the street.
A little extra caution can go a long way in keeping kids safe. While it is important that the students make it to school to learn, it is just as important that they arrive to/from safely. Whether walking, biking, taking the bus or driving, everyone should stay completely focused on the road. Safety is everyone’s responsibility.
Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.