Back to school driving tips

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Thomas Northcutt
  • 81st Training Wing Safety Office
As summer closes to an end, we now look forward to the beginning of another school year.

During the school year, drivers face additional hazards in and out of school zones.

The first thing to keep in mind is that children can be spontaneous and unpredictable, especially the younger ones because of this, drivers must expect the unexpected. Children may cross the street at the wrong place, cross without looking, or even unexpectedly run out in front of you. This requires drivers to be more aware of what is around them at all times. It is much easier to anticipate what a child will do if you are aware that they are there.

Drivers themselves need to stay predictable at all times. Use your blinkers, and don't make sudden maneuvers that others, especially children, aren't expecting.

Patience and civility go a long way during the beginning and ending of each school day. At these times, drivers will encounter parents who are running late, pedestrians crossing the street, and frequent bus stops. The best thing a driver can do is prepare for this. Give yourself plenty of time to get where you are going.

Limiting distractions will also alleviate stress while at the wheel during these times. Put down the coffee, get off the phone, and place both hands on the wheel. Turn the music down so you can see and hear what is going on around you.

Remember to obey all traffic laws while driving in a school zone, don't travel faster than 15 mph, and travel even slower if there are children along the road or crossing the street. Yield to pedestrians and make a complete stop at intersections. It isn't just courteous -- it's the law.

One last thing seems the most obvious, but is also one of the most critical. Stop in both directions for a school bus with its red lights flashing. If the bus has flashing yellow lights, anticipate it will soon stop and children may be crossing in front of you.

Here are a few tips for parents to consider during the high-traffic times:

· Park a block away and walk your child the rest of the way to avoid traffic.

· Follow your school's traffic pattern for drop-off and pickup.

· Walk your child to school to reduce traffic congestion and improve health.

· Drop children off on the school-side of the street so they don't have to cross the street.

· Teach your child to look all ways and then to use caution when crossing a street.

For more information or if you spot a hazard, call 228-377-7023.