Did you know that more school-age pedestrians are killed between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m., and between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., than at any other time of day? Notice how those two windows of time correspond to a typical school’s start and end times.
Now that kids are back in school, it’s time to remind ourselves of how to drive responsibly around children. Keep in mind that kids are less able than adults to focus on consequences, and they often make impulsive decisions. That means that a child might not be watching for cars. They may dart out into the street because they’re late for the bus. It takes time and development to learn safe traffic skills.
So now is the time to start watching out for little ones who are walking or biking to school or who are heading for the bus. Here are three crucial safety tips for drivers:
1. Avoid backup accidents. Even when people have rear-facing cameras, it’s all too easy to miss a small child walking behind your vehicle. If you do have a back-up camera, be sure you’re actually paying attention to what you see, rather than going through the motions. Especially if you do not, walk around your car before getting in. Head down to the sidewalk and check for any kids who might be about to cross behind your vehicle. It’s important to keep an eye on any kids you see, so they don’t surprise you.
2. Stay vigilant in neighborhoods and on school routes. Again, kids are small and unpredictable, so it’s crucial to spot them and keep a mental map of where you saw them. Drive slowly. Be aware of whether there are sidewalks — if there are not, kids may be walking in the street. Be aware of bikers, who may be riding in the street.
3. Follow the school bus laws. When you’re running late or are just feeling impatient, it’s tempting to rush past a school bus that is slowing down to pick up or drop off kids. Don’t do it: That’s how tragedies happen. As soon as the bus’s yellow lights begin flashing, traffic in both directions needs to slow down and stop at least 10 feet away from the bus. Ideally, you would be stopped before the red lights begin to flash and the stop-arm comes out.
At that point, you need to wait until all children have cleared the bus and are safely on sidewalks. Remember that some kids may be crossing the street in front of the bus. You should not proceed until the bus’s lights have stopped flashing, the stop-arm has pulled back and the bus has begun moving.
Improving our own driving behavior can reduce tragic accidents involving child pedestrians and bicyclists. Pledge to follow these three tips and help all our kids get safely to school.