Drivers in Palm Beach County have likely noticed school buses driving on the roads, children walking or riding bikes to school, and parents following new Covid-19 rules for dropping off their kids. Whether opting to have kids stay home or go in-person to school, it is vitally important for all drivers to pay extra close attention, particularly before and after school.
The National Safety Council, has offered some great helpful hints that serve as a good reminder to all of us.
Obeying School Traffic Laws
Many schools have implemented new pick up and drop off procedures due to Covid-19. Being familiar with your school’s plan is an absolute must. Also, it is crucial for drivers to obey the traffic laws that have been established for school zones.
Also, a new relatively Florida law specifically applies to using cell phones in school zones. Drivers may not operate a motor vehicle while using a wireless communications device in a handheld manner. This prohibition includes texting or talking on the phone while holding the phone.
Here are some additional tips for drivers:
• Pay close attention and be on the lookout for children;
• Be mindful of school zones and slow down;
• Do not double park; it blocks visibility for other children and vehicles;
• Do not load or unload children across the street from the school.
The majority of injuries take place when a child is getting off of the bus or while they are in the process of waiting for one. According to research by the National Safety Council, most of the children who lose their lives in bus-related incidents are 4 to 7 years old, and they are walking. They are often hit by the bus, or a motorist illegally passing a stopped bus. Here are some precautions to keep in mind:
• If you are driving behind a bus, make sure to follow at a greater distance than if you were driving behind another vehicle. This permits additional time to stop once the yellow lights start flashing.
• Never pass a bus from behind – or from either direction if you are on an undivided road – if it stopped to load or unload children;
• If the yellow or red lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended, traffic must stop;
• The area 10 feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for children; stop far enough back to allow them space to safely enter and exit the bus; and
• Be alert; children often are unpredictable; and they tend to ignore hazards and they take risks.
• Talk to your children and educate them on bus safety. Remind your kids to stay five steps away from the curb when waiting for the bus. Tell them to wait until the bus comes to a complete stop, and the driver says it is safe to board. Finally, make sure to exit the bus when it stops and look left-right-left for cars before crossing the street.
Depending on the age of your child, walking the route with your child ahead of time and pointing out potential distractions or dangers can be helpful. Also, take the time to remind your children that distractions (like headphones and cell phones) can present serious dangers. Encourage your children to pay attention when walking. Here are some additional safety measures drivers should follow:
• Do not block the crosswalk when stopped at a red light or waiting to make a turn – forcing pedestrians to go around you; this could put them in the path of moving traffic;
• In a school zone with flashers are blinking, stop and yield to pedestrians crossing the crosswalk or intersection;
• Always stop for a school patrol officer or crossing guard holding up a stop sign;
• Take extra care to look out for children in school zones, near playgrounds, parks and in all residential areas;
• Do not honk or rev your engine to scare a child, even if you have the right of way;
• Never pass a vehicle stopped for pedestrians;
• Always use extreme caution to avoid striking pedestrians wherever they may be, no matter who has the right of way;
• Educate your children – remind them to use the sidewalk whenever possible, to use crosswalks and look left-right-left before crossing and pay attention.
While bicyclists in Florida should be following the same rules of the road as drivers in most instances, bicyclists are hard to see. Also, children riding bikes can be unpredictable. Parents can play a critical role in educating their children on bicycle safety tips including:
• Always wear a correctly fitted helmet with a fastened chin strap;
• Ride in the same direction as traffic and follow traffic signs and signals
• Stay in the bike lane whenever possible;
• Never use electronics while riding – they are distracting.
Also, drivers should be mindful of bicyclists as well. The most common cause of collision is a driver turning left in front of a bicyclist. Being extra vigilant in school zones and residential neighborhoods can mean the difference between life and death. Making sure to follow these rules makes all of our children safer:
• When passing a bicyclist, proceed in the same direction slowly, and leave a distance between your car and the cyclist;
• When turning left and a bicyclist is approaching in the opposition direction, wait for the rider to pass;
• If you’re turning right and the bicyclist is approaching from behind on the right, let the rider go through the intersection first and always use your turn signals;
• Watch for bike riders turning in front of you without looking or signaling; kids especially have a tendency to do this;
• Be extra vigilant in school zones and residential neighborhoods;
• Watch out for bikes coming from driveways or behind parked cars;
• Check side mirrors before opening your door.
A complete guide and tips on bicycling safety can be a useful resource.
Following the above tips, avoiding distracted driving and paying extra close attention, can minimize the incidence of a child’s injury or worse. During these unprecedented times, the last thing one needs is to worry about distracted drivers. Call the reputable attorneys should you have a legal question. Stay safe & well!