5 Back to School Safety Tips Every Driver Should Know

You’re about to experience increased traffic and embark on a few months of sharing overcrowded roads with kids commuting to and from class and school bus pick-ups and drop-offs. It’s important to observe road rules at all times. However, it’s vital to pay extra attention to school neighborhoods and practice these school safety tips. Bad driving habits can lead to severe school traffic zone infractions, consequent citations, or worse.

A school bus where school safety tips should be adhered to.
School Bus | Getty Images

As a driver, you are obligated to yield to all pedestrians. In this case, recognize and understand the most common road signs inside school regions to ensure compliance. For example, a five-sided yellow sign with pedestrians crossing means you should slow down and watch for children as you approach a school area.

A school zone sign with flashing lights will be in effect to enforce the stipulated speed limit during school hours. Whenever you see a “School Bus Loading” sign, you must stop whether signals are flashing or not because you’re entering a pick-up and drop-off school zone.

2. Keep to the stipulated speed limit in school zones

With back-to-school season upon us, school districts will get busier with buses, crossing guards, and kids making their daily commutes. If your daily routine involves driving within 500 to 1,000 feet of school property, you must keep to a speed limit of 25 mph unless posted otherwise.

Some school traffic zones may have low-speed limits of up to 15 mph, depending on the state. So, prepare to slow down and stop in areas where children are most likely to be, such as playgrounds, residential areas, and public parks.

3. Avoid distracted driving

To drive cautiously within a school’s vicinity, avoid any activities that take attention away from safe driving. For example, talking or texting on the non-hands-free device or fiddling with the navigation or stereo system is not advisable.

Any of these distractions, including eating or drinking while driving, grooming, reading, or watching videos, can endanger you, your passengers, and other road users. Driving requires your full attention. So limit cell phone use for emergencies. Also, actively scan the road for pedestrians and safely pull off the road should your car break down or if you encounter ‘distracting’ activities that demand your maximum concentration.

4. Don’t drink and drive

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 32 people die daily from alcohol-impaired driving crashes in America. Drunk driving is considered a form of distracted driving because intoxication from drugs and alcohol impairs your judgment and cognitive abilities.

While all states impose stiff penalties for drunk driving, you may face hefty fines if caught driving while intoxicated within 1,000 feet of a school traffic crossing zone or property. Drunk driving carries severe consequences, with possible imprisonment and loss of driver’s license if the traffic offense involves a school bus. 

5. Observe non-negotiable school safety tips within a school zone

There is a considerable amount of rules to follow while driving within a school zone. It is important to stay within the posted speed limits and never drive more than 25 mph near school zones. That way it will be easy to stop when an obstacle presents itself, like a school bus.

Always slow down and be prepared to stop if a school bus is flashing yellow lights or uses an extended stop sign. These signs means that drivers should exercise extreme caution because of children that are near, about to be picked up, or dropped off.

Always adhere to instructions given by a school traffic officer and bus driver. This can be easily done by eliminating all distractions that interfere with your driving, whether in a school zone or otherwise.

When driving in school zones, we must always be cautious, take extra precautions, and be aware of our surroundings. It’s crucial to understand back-to-school safety tips to be an informed motorist who can easily avoid traffic violations.

RELATED: Back to School: 5 Safety Guidelines to Remember When Boarding the Bus