It's that time of year again! This week and the next mark the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year in King County. Returning students are brimming with anticipation as they eagerly reunite with their friends and favorite teachers. Meanwhile, there might be a touch of nervous excitement for the newcomers as they contemplate the idea of so many new faces and a brand-new routine.
Along with the roller coaster of emotions, the school year brings a lot of traffic: School buses pick up kids, children on bikes rush to beat the school bell, and parents hurry to drop off their children before work. It's incredibly important for drivers to ease up and pay good attention when there are kids around – especially right before and after school.
If You're Dropping Off
Schools usually have specific rules for dropping off during the school year. It's important to know them to keep all the kids safe. Here are some things to remember in all school zones:
Avoid parking right in the middle; it makes it hard for others to see kids and cars.
Don't let kids in or out of the car across the street from the school.
Consider carpooling to reduce the number of cars at the school.
Sharing the Road with Young Walkers
Research from the National Safety Council shows that most kids who get hurt in bus-related accidents are between 4 and 7 years old and are usually walking. They either get hit by the bus or by a driver who's not supposed to pass a stopped bus. A few simple steps can make a big difference in keeping kids safe:
Don't block the walkway when you're waiting at a red light or to make a turn. That forces walkers to go around your car and could put them in danger.
When the flashers are on in a school zone, stop and let walkers cross the street or intersection.
Always stop when a school patrol officer or crossing guard holds up a stop sign.
Be extra careful in school zones, near playgrounds, parks, and residential areas to watch out for kids.
Don't honk or rev your engine to scare walkers, even if you have the right of way.
Never try to pass a car stopped for walkers.
Always be super careful and avoid hitting walkers, no matter who's supposed to go first.
Sharing the Road with School Buses
If you're behind a bus, give more space between your car and the bus than you would with a car. That way, you'll have more time to stop when the yellow lights start flashing. In all 50 states, it's against the law to pass a school bus that's stopped to let kids on or off.
Don't try to pass a bus from behind or from either direction if you're on a road without a divider when it's stopped for kids.
If the yellow or red lights are flashing and the stop sign is out, all traffic needs to stop.
The area around the bus within 10 feet is the most risky for kids. Keep a good distance back so they have space to get on and off the bus safely.
Be super alert because kids can be unpredictable and often don't pay attention to dangers.
Sharing the Road with Bikers
Most roads treat bikers like they're driving a car, but bikes can be hard to spot. Kids on bikes make things trickier because they might not fully understand traffic. The most common reason for accidents is when a driver turns left to right in front of a biker.
When passing a biker, go slowly in the same direction and leave about 3 feet between your car and the bike.
If a biker is coming from the opposite direction while you're turning left, let them go first.
If a biker is behind you on the right and you're turning right, give them the right of way and always use your turn signals.
Watch out for bikers who might turn in front of you without signaling or looking – kids can be especially unpredictable.
Be super cautious in school zones and neighborhoods.
Keep an eye out for bikes coming out of driveways or from behind parked cars.
Check your side mirrors before opening your car door.
By exercising a little extra care and caution, drivers and pedestrians can co-exist safely in school zones.