It’s back-to-school time, and that’s impacting drivers everywhere. Traffic volumes increase exponentially at the beginning of the school year. More buses, cars, and other vehicles are vying to drop-off and pick-up children, clogging roadways as they vye to reach their desired destinations.
Unfortunately, all of this extra traffic also means increased risks for kids trying to get to school — and for drivers on the road.
Road Safety: a Matter of Life or Death
In the past decade, 264 school-age children died in a crash that was school-transportation related, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
These accidents did not just involve students riding a bus.
77% of school-transportation fatalities involved students walking, riding a bike, being a passenger in another vehicle, or waiting for their bus to arrive.
Many of these tragic incidents are preventable.
As the end of August and early September approaches and the beginning of another school year commences, it is important to understand what to be aware of to keep your school-age child (or other children safe) when on the road.
One of the easiest ways to keep kids safe on the road is to be aware of the dangers of distracted driving.
Distracted Driving Dangers while Taking Kids Back to School
Distracted driving claimed the lives of 3,166 Americans in 2017 according to NHTSA statistics.
We’ve all been guilty from time-to-time conducting a morning business meeting on the phone while driving to school or work.
But it’s not just smartphones that are distracting drivers.
Momentarily taking your eyes off the road to change the station on your car radio, reaching to pick up an item that has fallen to the floor, or turning your head to address two squabbling siblings in the backseat may be all the time needed to turn a routine drive into a tragic event.
Distracted driving can be a bigger risk at the beginning of the school year.
Kids are gathered at bus stops. Traffic near schools can back up, leading to late — and frustrated — commuters. Carpooling parents may have more kids in their vehicle than they’re used to, bringing more voices, requests, arguments, and conversations to the back seat.
Safe Driving Tips to Keep Everyone Safe
As a driver, it is your duty to be mindful of the road and share it equally with everyone.
Knowing and observing the rules of the road, including rights-of-way, yielding, and keeping a safe distance behind a flashing school bus as children load and unload are even more important during the school year.
A flashing red school bus means that you must stop, period.
Putting the needs of children and adults entering and exiting the bus is far more important than the extra seconds you gain trying to avoid being late to work or a client meeting.
Most importantly, there’s never a reason good enough to be using a smartphone while driving.
In 2017 alone, more than 3,000 lives were lost to phone-distracted drivers. Even a hands-free call can cause you to lose focus on the road and awareness of school-age children trying to get to or from school.
As parents and adults, we have an added responsibility to talk with our children and educate them on road safety when heading back to school. Talk with your kids, before school starts, about being distracted when boarding the bus, riding or walking to school, or waiting at a bus stop to be picked up.
Be sure kids understand that their safety depends on their full awareness and appreciation for the risks that are associated with being on the road and going back to school.
It is every driver’s responsibility to practice safe driving techniques by remaining fully aware of the road and everyone on it. Taking the time to slow down, look around, and observe everything on the road goes a long way to ensure your safety and the safety of everyone around, including our children on their way back to school.