Back To School Driving Safety Tips

A MCPS bus outfitted with one of five new school bus cameras to catch drivers who pass stopped buses

Monday is the first day of the 2014-2015 school year in Montgomery County, which means more than 150,000 kids will be walking, riding and driving to school.

With that in mind, the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service put out a reminder of school-related driving safety tips. According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, 29 percent of pedestrian-related fatalities happen in the fall, the most dangerous time for pedestrians:

1. Respect the bus. Imagine being in a large car with 40 noisy, excited 4th-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. Make sure children know to walk in front of — never in back of — buses.

2. Get in the zone. Speed limits in school zones typically range between 15 and 25 mph. Abide by the limits and look out for pedestrians, keeping your foot on the brake. (It goes without saying that school zones are home to newly licensed teenagers who are largely inexperienced). Speed limits aren’t just for during school hours either — consider after-school soccer practices, late night football games and other events.

3. Walk smart. Drivers aren’t the only ones who need to obey the rules of the road. A major driving hazard are 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 Schools organization, 33 percent of youth pedestrian crashes are attributed to kids darting out into the road. Remember to be a good pedestrian — cross at corners/marked crosswalks and in clear view, never between parked cars. Remind your kids to do the same.

4. 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 seatbelts the law, they save thousands of lives each year.

5. 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 for a program. 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.

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