School days bring congestion: school buses are picking up and dropping off kids, parents are shuffling kids between school and activities, students are rushing to school on bikes and foot, and new drivers are behind the wheel for the first time learning new routes and routines.

Now is the time to slow down and pay attention. Below are some suggestions on how to make your morning and afternoon school commutes safer for everyone.

Sharing the Road with Young Pedestrians
According to the National Safety Council, most of the children who lose their lives in school-bus related incidents are between 4 and 7 years old and are walking. They are either hit by the school bus or by a motorist trying to pass a stopped bus. To ensure that children walking to/from school are also safe:
Do not block the crosswalk
Always yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk – especially in a School Zone
Always stop for a school crossing guard or patrol officer and give the students the right-of-way
Take extra care to look out for children in school zones and near playgrounds
Do not pass vehicles that are stopped for pedestrians or try and intimate pedestrians to walk across the street faster – even if you have the right-of-way.
Teach your children to recognize and obey traffic signals and signs
Teach your children to walk – not run – across intersections and to only cross streets at designated crosswalks or street corners
Ensure your children always look both ways before crossing the street

Sharing the Road with Bicyclists
Bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicles, but they are often hard to see or difficult to maneuver around. Children riding bikes are problematic for drivers because they cannot react appropriately to changing traffic conditions. To share the road safely with bicyclists:
Be extra vigilant and cautious for children on bikes in school zones and residential neighborhoods
Leave at least 3 feet between you and a bicyclist and proceed slowly
If you’re turning left and a bicyclist is approaching from the opposite direction, give the bicyclist the right-of-way
If you’re turning right and a bicyclist is approaching from behind, give them the right-of-way
Always use your traffic signals
Check your side mirrors before changing lanes or opening your door
If your child rides a bike to school, make sure they always wear a helmet and choose the safest route to/from school
Ensure that your child knows and utilizes safe bicycle riding practices such as staying on the right-hand side of the road, riding in the same direction as traffic, and using the appropriate hand signals

By exercising a little extra care and caution this school year, drivers, school buses, and students can co-exist safely in and around school zones.

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