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Six essential back to school safety tips for drivers

A group of kids waiting by a school bus

It’s that time of year again: back-to-school season! Even if you aren’t a parent of a school-aged student, this time of year likely still affects you, especially on the road. Whether you’re on your way to work to get in your big rig or handling a final mile delivery, from school zones to school buses, your daily commute will probably be impacted by the increased traffic, pedestrians and slower speeds. While more congestion and a slower commute can be frustrating, it’s very important to stay alert and pay attention to road signs and speed limits for everyone’s safety. Here are a few back to school safety tips for drivers to keep in mind as you are driving.

1. Slow down

This is potentially one of the most important back to school reminders for drivers. Areas around school zones have decreased speed limits for the safety of students and motorists. Depending on the type of roadway the school zone is in, the speed limit could be as low as 10 to 15 miles per hour. Be aware of upcoming school zones and reduced speed limits so you can safely slow down without slamming on your brakes. Watch for students walking in the street, playing, or congregating near a school bus stop. Stop completely at stop signs and check carefully for pedestrian traffic.

If there is a school crossing guard, keep in mind that they have authority in school zones, so pay attention if they give you directions, or are in the roadway with students. If you are dropping your child off, encourage them to cross in front of your vehicle if they need to cross the street (never behind) so you can ensure they get across safely. Always think about your departure upon arrival by securing the safest place to park providing the most visibility and least potential for danger. Double your normal following distance when you’re in school zones and/or when kids are present as vehicles in front of you may stop suddenly. Wait a few seconds when the light turns green at an intersection before you proceed. This will give you the opportunity to scan left, right, left and quite possibly avoid an accident should someone run a red light.

2. School bus safety for drivers

You’ll see an increase in school bus traffic during back-to-school season and it’s important that you always yield to them. School buses. make frequent stops and it is against the law to pass a stopped school bus while its lights are flashing, and the stop sign is extended as children are entering or exiting the bus. Depending on the road, remember that you may have to stop for this even if you are on the opposite side of the road. When school buses are merging back into traffic after stopping at a bus stop, you must give them the right of way and when driving near or behind buses, be sure not to tailgate or drive in their blind spots. You should always try to maintain six to seven seconds of following distance.

3. Be prepared for unusually high concentration of pedestrians and crosswalks in school zones

It’s important to stay alert and watch for an increased number of both children and parents walking on foot in and around school zones. Be sure to yield to them and give them extra room, even if they aren’t in a marked crosswalk. Many walkways may be positioned in and around school zones to facilitate parents and students walking to and from nearby neighborhoods. These designated crosswalks will often not be marked with warning signs so pay attention to pedestrians to ensure you will not have to slam on your brakes. Keep your eyes moving, as this will afford you the ability to keep your circle of awareness.

4. Be alert and eliminate distractions

Keep an eye out for children darting into the street without first looking both ways. Be especially careful on streets without a sidewalk or streets with on-street parking as it can be more difficult to see people who may be trying to cross the street. Try to scan a least one of your mirrors every 5-8 seconds to maintain your circle of awareness and look into your future by a minimum of 15 seconds (two city blocks or a quarter-mile on the highway). Don’t allow in-cab distractions such as your phone or other electronic devices take your focus away from safe driving. Per many state laws, you need to allow at least three feet of passing distance between your vehicle and a bicyclist. Remember, most accidents can be avoided if even just one person is paying close attention to what’s going on around them.

5. Budget extra travel time

School areas are often congested, especially between the hours of 7 – 9 a.m. and 2 – 4 p.m. when parents and buses are dropping students off and picking them up and students are driving themselves home. Be sure to allow yourself extra time to get where you’re going, especially if you must drive through a school zone during rush hour on your way to work. You don’t want to risk your safety or the safety of those around you because you are worried about being late.

6. Beware of increased ticket fines

It’s important to remember that most states impose more severe fines for breaking traffic laws within school zones. Many areas double or triple speeding fines in and around school zones in an effort to discourage drivers from risking the lives of young children and parents because they are not paying attention. For the safety of those around you and yourself, be sure to obey speed limits, signs and watch for anything out of the ordinary.

Remember that road safety is more important than any phone call, text message or distraction in your vehicle. It’s extremely important to stay alert and attentive to the road, especially in a school zone during back-to-school season. Drive safely and use our tips for the safety of everyone on the road—pedestrians and motorists.

At ITS, safety is paramount, and we prioritize the safety of our drivers and everyone else on the road. To learn more about driving for ITS Logistics, contact us at (866) 303-2518 or view our current job openings.

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