August 16, 2021 – As the 2021-22 school year begins, motorists will see changes in traffic patterns. Back-to-school transportation affects not only school districts, students and parents, but also other motorists on the roads.
“Drivers may be out of practice when it comes to the rules of the road, with school buses hitting the streets and students walking and biking to school,” said Mark Madeja, AAA Oklahoma spokesperson. “But our responsibility for keeping students safe hasn’t changed.”
AAA advises all drivers to be mindful of possible changes in and around school zones:
- Some parents may opt to transport their children to and from school, avoiding the school bus ride but increasing the volume of vehicles during drop-off and pickup.
- More students may walk or bike to school, increasing foot and bike traffic close to schools.
- In some cases, staggered schedules and social distancing could mean more school buses on the roads at different intervals to transport students.
AAA offers the following tips as the new school year gets under way:
AAA Drop-Off/Pick-Up Safety Tips
- Follow school drop-off and pick-up procedures, and be mindful that these may have changed.
- Don’t double park. It blocks visibility for other children and vehicles.
- Don’t load or unload children across the street from the school.
- Have children exit the vehicle on the “curb side” every time (so they aren’t opening the car door into an oncoming traffic lane or crossing around the front/back of car to get to curb)
- Slow down, eliminate distractions, and watch for children.
AAA School Bus Safety Tips
- Always Stop for School Buses – Flashing yellow lights on a school bus indicate it is preparing to stop to load or unload children and motorists should slow down and prepare to stop. Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate the bus has stopped and children are getting on and off. Motorists are required to stop their vehicles and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop sign is withdrawn and the bus begins moving before they can start driving again. It’s the law and can result in a hefty fine if you don’t.
- Keep Track of Time – Be aware of the time of day you’re on the road and how that coincides with the school day. More school-age pedestrians are killed from 7 to 8 a.m. and from 3 to 4 p.m. than any other hours of the day.
- Slow Down – Whether in a school zone or residential neighborhood, drivers should keep their speed low and be prepared to stop quickly for increased vehicle or pedestrian traffic.
- Come to a complete stop – Always come to a complete stop, checking carefully for children on sidewalks and in crosswalks before proceeding.
- Eliminate distractions – Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing. Children can be quick, crossing the road unexpectedly or emerging suddenly between two parked cars. Reduce risk by not using your cell phone while driving.
- Obey Traffic Signs and Signals – Unfortunately, many motorists violate stop signs in school zones and residential neighborhoods, with many failing to come to a complete stop, rolling through a stop sign or not slowing down at all. Motorists are also running red stoplights, putting pedestrians and other motorists at risk.
AAA Pedestrian Safety Tips
- Cross only at corners so drivers can see you. Never cross between parked cars or mid-block.
- Use a crosswalk when it’s available. Don’t assume that because you can see the driver, the driver can see you. Always use caution when crossing.
- Look all ways before crossing. Look and listen for cars, pedestrians and bicyclists.
- Once you have confirmed traffic has stopped, cross when the light indicates it is safe to cross without further hesitation so you have time to cross safely.
- Use the crosswalk push-button signal when possible, and cross when the signal allows.
- Watch for cars that are turning left or right when you are crossing.
- Walk on a sidewalk when it is provided. If you must walk in the street, walk facing traffic, on the left side of the road and as far to the left as possible.
- Make it easy for drivers to see you – dress in light colors, wear reflective material or use a flashlight.
- Remove headphones and don’t use cell phones or electronic devices when crossing the street.
- Watch for white lights on the rear of vehicles, signaling backing up in driveways or parking lots.
- Avoid walking alone. Walk with a friend.
AAA Bicycle Safety Tips
- Make sure your child has the skills to ride a bike safely, such as riding in a straight line and signaling to vehicles when turning.
- Choose the safest route to bike to school, one with less traffic and slower speeds. Use bike paths if they are available.
- Make sure your cyclists understand traffic safety rules, such as riding in the same direction as traffic and stopping at all stop signs and signals.
- Explain the importance of wearing a bike helmet to your child. They’re critical to minimizing injury in case of a crash. According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, wearing a helmet can reduce the odds of head injury by half.
- Ride focused and alert. Never use earbuds or electronics while riding.
“No matter the plan, no matter the mode of transportation, everyone needs to remain vigilant – put down the phone, look up, and pay attention to help students get to and from school safely,” says Madeja.