With summer ending and kids heading back to school again, it’s a good time to remind ourselves of how to drive around this giant yellow buses and all those kids again.
#1 Respect the Bus
Imagine that it was you driving a huge yellow box around, loaded with 40 middle school kids. It might be a little bit stressful and distracting, yes?
So as the kids head back to school, make life easier on the driver of that bus in the lane next to you. Keep your distance, signal your intentions (yes, even if it’s just a lane change), and follow the rules. Don’t make a stressful job worse.
#2 Stop When You Should
Never pass a stopped school bus. Always stop if the yellow or red lights are flashing, and it’s a good idea to stop even if they’re not flashing, just in case.
If the stopped bus is on the opposite side of the road, you still have to stop UNLESS there’s a wide unpaved median dividing the two sides of the road.
And if you are on the other side of a divided road wanting to turn left, don’t do it if that turn will take you across the bus’s path.
The 10 ft around the bus is the most dangerous area for school kids, so stop far enough back to keep this space clear.
And though students are told to walk around the front end of the bus to cross the street, they are kids and — News Flash! — they don’t always follow the instructions. Stop a safe distance from the bus, wait for the bus to move on, and then wait a few seconds after that to make sure that some seventh grader isn’t going to finish his conversation with a friend and then dash across the street.
#3 Respect the School Zones
School zones technically only exist when they’re active: during the hours before and after school when children are arriving for or leaving school. The rest of the time they’re just ordinary stretches of street. And this temporariness makes them confusing to some drivers. We get used to one set of rules during the summer and sometimes forget that the rules are different twice a weekday once the kids go back to school.
Fortunately, most of us drive the same route to and from work and even while making our everyday errand runs. It’s a simple matter to learn where the school zones on your usual route are.
Not all school zones have flashing red lights, so know at what times they are active.
And just expect that a lot of kids going to or leaving school are going to be thinking about anything but traffic safety, so you have to think about it for them.
Don’t speed in a school zone.
Maintain a steady 20mph, unless you have a reason to go even more slowly. This slower speed will give you more time to spot a kid dashing across the street and to stop.
Another advantage to knowing where the school zones are on your usual route is that you won’t have to be surprised by turning out of a side street and suddenly find yourself in an active school zone. The signs will be behind and in front of you, but you’ll still know the school zone is there because it’s part of your regular commute.
Make sure that you’re doing 20mph or less when you ENTER the school zone. Ticketing drivers in school zones who’ve entered school zones but haven’t slowed down enough yet has become a popular maneuver of some police departments.
Don’t pass in a school zone.
If you enter a school zone slightly behind a car in the next lane going 10mph, match their speed and stay slightly behind them until you reach the other side.
Don’t change lanes in a school zone.
Your attention should be focused in front of you looking for a child doing something… well, childish. Don’t be looking around for a chance to change lanes. If you’re going to be turning while in the school zone, make sure you’re in the proper lane before you enter the school zone.
Don’t use your phone or change radio stations in a school zone.
Again, focus you attention in front of you to look out for kids in your path.
If all of this is really too hard for you, then change your route to avoid school zones, or leave earlier or later to avoid the times when they are active.