The end of summer vacation comes too quickly for most of us in Florida. It can also be an exciting time of year for families as they prepare for the back to school season. With summer vacations wrapping up and traffic increasing as people go back to work and back to school, the end of August means different driving patterns and rules of the road.
According to a report by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHSTA), autumn is the most dangerous time of year for pedestrians, with 29 percent of pedestrian-related fatalities. Here are 5 tips below to help keep you, and your kids, safer as they head back to school. Whether you are a new or long-term driver, use these tips to set the example for others on the road.
- Respect the big yellow bus. Imagine being in a large car with 40 noisy 6th-graders. Could be pretty stressful. Do your part and make the bus drivers’ lives easier. Yield when they are attempting to merge, and maintain a significant distance behind them, as they often make unexpected stops.
- Get in the zone.Speed limits in Florida school zones typically range between 15 and 25 mph. Abide by the limits and look out for pedestrians, keeping your foot on the brake. School zones are also home to newly licensed teenagers who are largely inexperienced. Teen crashes spike in September as they head back to school and happen more often during hours when school begins and lets out. Speed limits aren’t just for during school hours either – consider after-school marching band practice, late night football games, and other events. When dropping kids off, remember that curbs are reserved for buses and emergency vehicles, so you shouldn’t loiter.
- Walk better.Drivers aren’t the only ones who need to obey the rules of the road. A major driving pet peeve is pedestrians who jaywalk, cross at a red light, or text while walking. More than an annoyance, this is a danger, especially in school zones. According to the Safe Routes to School Organization, 33 percent of youth pedestrian crashes are attributed to kids darting out into the road.
- A different kind of pool safety. If you’re part of a carpool it’s up to you to remind your children/passengers that seatbelts are a must – no matter who they are driving with. Not only are seat belts the law, they save thousands of lives a year.
- Go back to school yourself. Even if you’ve been driving for 30 years, make time for a refresher course in safe driving. Through your insurer, you may be eligible for a discount. Or make it a family night with your teens, and combine with quiz or lesson, such as Toyota’s Distracted Drivers Board Game, available on its website or Driving basics.
Remember that distracted driving unfortunately didn’t end with the summer either. The national report “Distracted Drivers in School Zones” offers sobering statistics about the effects, so turn off/put down your cell phone while in the car. While it’s an exciting time, getting back to school can be stressful, too. Tolerance and defensive driving will get you everywhere you need to go safely.
For a great printout from the National Safety Council click here: http://www.nsc.org/NSCDocuments_Advocacy/Fact%20Sheets/Back-to-School-Checklist.pdf