Finding topics to write about here is easy. All I have to do is drive around and observe how other people are driving.
Like discussing how to drive in a school zone, for example, inspired by the people around me this morning who definitely did not know how to handle the school zone we passed through.
Legally, these are unique situations because school zones exist only part of the time. Like shamrock shakes, or the attractiveness of Helen Hunt.
The driving rules within a school zone are only in effect for that small area of the roadway and only within certain times of day, on weekdays during some months of the year. If you're lucky, there's a flashing yellow light to tell you when a school zone is active: otherwise, you'll have to keep track of the day and time yourself to know when to change your driving behavior.
The temporary nature of school zones may account for some of the confusion over how to drive through one. If the rules were more permanent, they'd be better known. Another explanation of driver confusion may be that some laws have changed in recent years.
Whatever the cause of drivers misunderstanding the laws, reviewing how to drive in an active school zone is a good idea.
And I'd like to dedicate this to the other cars on the road with me this morning. This one's for you, guys.
Slow Down in School Zones
The posted speed limit in an active school zone in Texas is 20mph. Slowing traffic down this way gives drivers more time to react if a kid dashes across the street to get to the bus stop before the bus does.
And face it: kids do things like this. They don't realize how dangerous it can be, so the drivers have to be aware of the danger for them.
Focus your Attention on the Road Ahead of You
When you drive through a school zone, your attention needs to be on the road in front of you because that's where the danger of hitting a school kid exists. Some kid may dash across the road behind you, but if they do, you're not likely to hurt them at all. It's the area directly in front of your car where the danger lies.
And it's here that you need to focus your attention. Put the cell phone down. Don't unwrap that breakfast sandwich. Don't push buttons while searching for a less obnoxious radio station. For the few yards of the school zone, keep your attention focused on your driving.
Starting September 2009, a new Texas law actually makes it illegal to use a hand-held cell phone in a school zone. This may address people taking their hands off of the steering wheel when driving near school children, but it doesn't really deal with the loss of attention that the use of any cell phone, even the hands free kind poses. Do more than the law requires: don't use any kind of wireless communication until you're out of the school zone.
Do Not Pass Another Car in a School Zone
A group of cars that enters a school zone together should stay in the same position relative to each other until they reach the other end — this is easier with everyone going the same 20mph — and this is for the same reason mentioned above: your attention needs to be focused on the road ahead.
You need to be aware of little pedestrians with Justin Bieber backpacks coming at you from one side or the other, and you can't do this if you move ahead of or fall behind other cars.When you do, your side view is momentarily blocked, and if you spend time with little kids, you know that a moment is all that's needed for something tragic to happen.
Do Not Change Lanes in School Zones
This is another result of putting your focus on the road ahead. A driver in a school zone needs to be watching ahead for school kids who might step out in front of them. A driver who's changing lanes needs to focus on multiple lanes, other drivers, their own blind spots, etc. And all of this changing of lanes takes attention away from where it needs to be.
So wait. Change lanes after the school zone. After all, they're never very long anyway.
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