It’s that time of year again: the school year has begun – or is about to – for much of the US, so drivers, beware! That means heavier morning and afternoon traffic, and plenty of little ones making their own way to and from school.

Staying Safe in School Zones

At back to school time, it’s not uncommon to find that you’ve gotten used to your summer driving habits, so those flashing lights that indicate you’re in a school zone could catch you off guard. These lights typically run during morning arrival and afternoon dismissal times, but Erie Insurance urges drivers to pay attention at all times – even during the off hours. School zone indicators often get used for after school events such as sports practice or games, band practice, and other events. If you don’t pay attention, you could get ticketed, and in a school zone this could cost double the normal fines.

AAA also urges drivers to be extra cautious while driving, and reduce speeds in residential areas and school zones where children are walking or biking.

On the Roads Beyond the School

Slowing down and paying attention to your surroundings doesn’t only apply to the areas around a school. You should also be aware of school buses and know what their signals indicate:

  • Yellow flashing lights – Slow down and prepare to stop, the bus is about to stop and pick up or drop off children.
  • Red flashing lights – Typically with an extended stop sign. Children are getting on or off the bus, and whether you’re behind the bus or coming at it, you have to stop. It’s illegal in all 50 states to pass a school bus that’s loading or unloading.

Back to School Safety Tips for DriversBesides knowing what to look for as a driver, it’s important that your school-aged children who ride the bus also know proper safety etiquette. According to AAA, if children ride the bus to or from school, they should follow these simple safety practices:

  • Get to the bus stop early and stay back from the curb.
  • Only board the bus once it has come to a complete stop.
  • Never take a bus that isn’t yours.
  • Make sure the bus driver can see you, don’t walk behind a bus.
  • Only cross the street in designated crosswalks, or at the corner.
  • Never dart in front of cars or from between parked cars.

Pay Attention to Your Surroundings

Now is a perfect time to practice driving without distractions, and to set a good example for teens that may be behind the wheel soon. The Erie Insurance group recommends avoiding distractions like cell phones and other electronic devices while driving, and practice good driving habits. Come to complete stops, use your turn signals, don’t tailgate, and pay attention to the task at hand – driving. Leave plenty of room for kids to cross the street when they need to, and be prepared for traffic that stops more frequently. It’s a good idea to give yourself some extra time for your commute to make up for the heavier traffic that comes with the school year.

The Bottom Line

With school back in session, it’s important that you pay attention – both on and off the road. Be vigilant around school buses, school zones, and residential areas where children are present. The newest vehicles have great safety features, but they’re no substitute for simply paying attention to your surroundings. From everyone here at Auto Credit Express, have a great school year!