It’s that time of year that makes parents happy; school starts again! We all seem to enjoy the summer months and the vacations we may take, but we now have to re-focus on the school year. When I say “we” I’m not just talking about the kids at school. I’m also referring to the parents and especially those who are driving in or near school zones. Here’s a few things to consider at any time during the school year.
The first few days after a long break, such as after summer vacation, many of the kids are very excited to see their friends again. They may forget to look before crossing the street, may walk between vehicles and of course, may just dart out at the last second. Because we know this will happen, as drivers we should expect this to happen and prepare for this.
The first thing to do is to keep your speed reduced in those areas. You can respond much quicker to the sudden actions of pedestrians or cyclists if you’re driving much slower. If you’re running late for work, speeding through your community won’t really save you much time. With this in mind, I would suggest you leave for work a few minutes earlier when school is in session. That will give you time to also deal with the higher volume of traffic; including stopping for school buses.
To give you more time to respond to the sudden movements of pedestrians and cyclists, you could also drive closer to the middle of the road, especially while passing parked vehicles when there isn’t any oncoming traffic. That added distance from the sidewalk can help you spot those entering your path and allow you to stop sooner. Speaking of parked vehicles, if you take a quick glance under the parked vehicle, you may be able to spot feet or bicycle wheels moving toward your path. That will only work if you’re doing it a couple of car lengths before you reach the vehicle. You could also do a quick scan through the vehicle to see if you can see their upper body walking in front of the vehicle.
To help spot the kids sooner than that, keep your eyes moving from building to building as you drive. Some of the kids may be coming down their driveway, so if you can anticipate them entering the roadway earlier, you’ll have more time to respond to them. And keep in mind, a couple light taps of the horn may also help protect them from being struck. You won’t always have to slow down or stop if you can get them to stop.
Since the kids don’t drive they often won’t think like a driver does. Any time they reach the corner and are about to cross the street, don’t expect they will look your way first. Before school and after school are the busy times in school areas, so you may want to have a good look along the sidewalk before the intersection. They may be cyclists, pedestrians running or skateboarders hurrying to reach the corner.
If you’re a more observant driver, it will help to spot the kids sooner. And remember to be patient. You’ll still reach your destination. Waiting those extra few seconds or dropping your speed slightly won’t make you any later. Since you’ll also have to deal with school buses before and after school, here’s a few reminders that will help keep the kids safe and refresh your memory of what to do when dealing with school buses.
Kids are our future. I’m sure you want to protect your own kids, so let’s protect others as well. Our communities will become much safer for each of them if you make these little changes to your driving pattern.