Summer’s winding down, which means the end of lazy, worry-free days by the pool and the beginning of another hectic school year. With this change of seasons and routines also comes a drastic change in driving patterns on the road, and things can get a little crazy if you don’t know what to look for.
Whether you’re a parent, a newly licensed student, or just another driver on the road, here are some important things to keep in mind in these next couple months.
Watch Out for Pedestrians
The beginning of a school year means more buses and bicycles on the road and more kids potentially walking to class, especially if you live in a residential area close to a school. According to the National Center for Safe Routes to School, more children are hit by cars near school than at any other location. Keep an eye out for any kids on the sidewalk, buses stopped by the side of the road, or any other indications that kids are afoot – even the smartest tykes may dart in and out of busy streets and potentially endanger their lives.
- Don’t stop in the middle of crosswalks – blocking them may entice youngsters and other pedestrians to go around your vehicle, increasing the chances that they’ll be hit by traffic.
- Never pass a car that looks like it’s stopped for pedestrians.
- Slow down appropriately when you’re in a school zone, and especially when kids are present.
Remember, in most states, it’s illegal to pass a stopped school bus. Don’t risk passing a bus just to shave a few seconds off your commute – the consequences can be expensive and deadly.
Be Wary of New Drivers
A new school year brings a surge of newly-licensed teen drivers and fresh-faced, inexperienced college students with only a couple years of driving under their belt. According to the National Safety Council, teen crashes spike in September and happen more commonly in the mornings and afternoons, when school begins and ends.
If you’re a parent dropping off your kids at high school, keep on high alert for new teen drivers. Give them the space to figure out their driving skills. Even if they’ve shown exemplary skills in driver training classes, they typically don’t have the skills that come primarily from experience, such as gauging gaps in traffic, reading the general flow of traffic on roads, and having situational awareness while driving in congested areas. Give these kids all the space necessary so both of you can be comfortable driving safely.
If you’re a new driver given the freedom to commute to school every day, don’t take this responsibility lightly and follow these guidelines:
- Stow your smartphone and any other distractions away. Throw them in the back seat if you have to.
- Don’t carry passengers such as friends and siblings until you’re truly comfortable behind the wheel. According to AAA, having even one young passenger can increase a teen driver’s crash risk by 44%.
- Wear your seat belt. It’s not only the law in most places, but it can also save your life.
Car crashes remain the leading cause of death for teens in the United States – all it takes is a little patience and focus to ensure you won’t become a part of that statistic.
Get Ready for More Traffic – Everywhere
While we normally associate the beginning of the school year with more traffic around schools, it’s also important to highlight the surge of traffic on freeways and roads as well. In September, commute times on freeways typically increase due to numerous factors, including commuter students heading to college and parents dropping off their children at schools at the same time of the day.
Account for this increased travel time and be more wary of traffic conditions. Freeway exits for colleges may cause traffic in the right lane to suddenly come to a halt, a perfect formula for an inconvenient fender bender or pile-up. More college students on the road also means more inexperienced drivers as well; be an example for them by maintaining a safe distance, using your turn signals properly, and obeying proper defensive driving etiquette.
Going back to school can be a drag for students and a godsend for parents sick of their kids, but a traffic collision or incident can be exponentially worse. Put your driver’s education to good use and drive safely on the road – and good luck to another school year!