As the new school year begins, AAA wants to remind motorists about safe ways to share the roads with pedestrians, bicyclists and school buses.
“A new school year brings a lot of excitement, so it’s easy for children to become preoccupied on their way to and from school,” said Michelle Donati, communications manager for AAA Arizona. “As a leader in traffic safety, AAA reminds all drivers use extra caution when traveling near schools, especially as the school year begins.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, riding a bus to school is 13 times safer than riding in a passenger vehicle and 10 times safer than walking to school.
Safety advocate AAA urges motorists to follow these tips for sharing the road with school buses and bicycles:
Wait your turn: It is illegal to pass a school bus that is stopped to load or unload children. School buses use yellow flashing lights to alert motorists that they are preparing to stop. Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign arm also signal that children are getting on or off the bus.
Check the medians: Traffic in both directions must stop on undivided roadways when students are entering or exiting a school bus. On a divided roadway, traffic behind the school bus must stop.
Extra room: The area 10 feet around a school bus is where children are in the most danger of getting hit. Stop your car far enough from the bus to allow children the necessary space to safely enter and exit the bus.
Be alert: Children are unpredictable. Children walking to or from their bus are usually very comfortable with their surroundings. This makes them more likely to take risks, ignore hazards or fail to look both ways when crossing the street.
Pass - and fail: Never pass a school bus on the right. It is illegal and could have tragic consequences. It’s also illegal to pass a vehicle while driving in a 15 mph school zone.
Don’t cross the line: Drivers should not block the crosswalk when stopped at a red light or waiting to make a turn. Blocking the crosswalk forces pedestrians to walk around your vehicle, putting them in danger.
Yield to pedestrians: In a school zone when flashers are blinking, you must yield to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a marked crosswalk or at an intersection with no marked crosswalk.
Take heed: Always stop when directed to do so by a school patrol sign, school patrol officer or crossing guard.
Stay calm: Don’t honk your horn or do anything to scare a pedestrian, even if you have the right-of-way.
Pass with care: When passing a bicyclist proceeding in the same direction, leave a distance between you and the bicycle of no less than 3 feet.
Be alert: Watch for bicyclists turning in front of you without looking or signaling or coming out of driveways or from behind parked cars. Also check side mirrors for bicyclists before opening the door.
Keep in mind that fines are doubled in school zones when signs are out, and be sure to pay attention to crossing guards.
AAA is a go-to source for traffic safety information. Visit AAA.com/trafficsafety to learn more.
Valerie Vinyard is a public affairs specialist for AAA Arizona. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.