Back to School Safety

Since the start of school is around the corner, let’s do a pop quiz:

What do you do when you see a school bus flashing yellow lights? 

For millions of students nationwide, the school day begins and ends with a trip on a school bus. But the greatest risk for these students isn’t actually riding the bus-it’s approaching or leaving the bus. More school-age pedestrians have been killed between the hours of 3 and 4 p.m. than any other time of day (NHTSA).

And it’s not just pedestrians-from 2000 to 2009, 85 crashes occurred in which at least one occupant of a school transportation vehicle died. More than half of those crashes (56%) involved at least one other vehicle (NHTSA). These statistics are an alarming reminder of how important it is to stay alert and focused when driving in residential neighborhoods and around schools during the academic year.

Here are some tips to help get you into the back to school driving routine, avoid accidents, and stay safe:

Look around. Be aware of children walking or biking when pulling into or leaving your driveway. Children will be on and near the road in the morning and after school hours, and keep in mind that they may be walking in between parked cars. Look up and down your sidewalk before getting into your car.

Plan ahead. You don’t want to find yourself feeling stressed or rushed when passing through school zones, so build some extra time into your schedule or consider modifying your route to avoid congested school zones.

Avoid distractions. Reduce distractions inside your car so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings. Turn off your cell phone before getting in the car, or better yet, put it in your trunk.

Know the law! Drive no faster than 15 m.p.h in or near a school zone, and remember that school zones are non-passing zones. Finally, always stop for school buses that are loading or unloading students.

And in response to the pop quiz question, school bus drivers flash yellow lights to indicate that they’re preparing to stop to load or unload children. When you see yellow flashing lights, slow down and prepare to stop. When you see red flashing lights and extended stop arms, stop your car and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop sign is withdrawn, and the bus begins moving before driving again.

Can you think of any back to school safety tips that we missed? 

For more tips and information, be sure to follow AARP Driver Safety on Facebook and Twitter.