School’s are open; please, drive carefully
Schools opened this week in Queen Anne’s County, putting dozens of school buses and thousands of children back on the roads during the morning and early afternoon hours, often at the same time as many commuters.
“With schools starting back and the days getting shorter, we all need to pay extra attention and allow extra travel time since commutes will be impacted,” advises the State Highway Administration.
Drivers are urged to be alert and drive with care as they drive through neighborhoods and school zones and as they drive near school buses.
Nationwide, more than one-fifth of all children between the ages of 5 and 15 killed in traffic crashes in 2012 were pedestrians (207 deaths), according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Pedestrian injuries for this age group totaled 12,000 in 2012.
“Back-to-school is an exciting time for children, but unfortunately, they are unpredictable and not always mindful of traffic safety. Children may have difficulty gauging the distance and speed of an approaching car, and may struggle to recognize and react to potentially hazardous situations,” said Myra Wieman, traffic safety program manager, Mid-Atlantic Foundation for Safety and Education. “Students will be gathering at neighborhood bus stops and walking to and from school during concentrated times of the day. Motorists are reminded to use extra caution, slow down, and observe lower speed limits in school zones and residential areas. This is a great time for parents and caregivers to remind children of traffic rules and safety.”
Drivers are reminded that it’s the law to stop for stationary school buses that have activated their flashing red lights with the stop arm extended, as the bus is loading and unloading children. In fact, other traffic is supposed to stop 20 feet from the bus in either direction. This is the most dangerous time as children getting on or off a bus can dart anywhere.
Most fatalities involving school buses occur when other drivers ignore the law, the flashing lights and the stop arm and pass a stopped school bus as a child is crossing the road.
The only time it’s OK to pass a stopped school bus with its flashing lights on and stop arm extended is if your vehicle is on the other side of a highway divided by a median — so you are essentially on a different roadway.
Drivers must be patient. Realize your commute takes longer when school is in session — allow more time. Know that traffic fines can be doubled in school zones.
Stay alert and avoid distractions — especially use of cell phones and texting, both of which are against the law while driving in Maryland. Watch for children walking in the street, especially if there are no sidewalks in the neighborhood. Drive defensively, anticipate school bus stops and keep a safe distance. Children and parents need to review the rules of the road, too. If traveling by school bus, have a safe place to wait for the bus, away from traffic and the street, and stay away from the bus until it comes to a complete stop and the driver signals you to get on.
When walking, cross at marked crosswalks where available. Before crossing a street, look both ways, and stay alert.
Let’s make this a safe school year!