With the school year starting soon in upstate New York, it’s essential to revisit pedestrian safety measures to ensure children can safely travel to and from school. Here are some key points to consider in our Pedestrian Safety 101: Back to School Edition.
As the summer winds down and the new school year approaches, the time has come to shift our attention from beach outings and barbecues to school schedules, homework, and child safety. The bustling school mornings bring not just a surge in bus and car traffic but also an increase in young pedestrians making their way to school.
Reinforcing back-to-school pedestrian safety tips can ensure children remain safe as they navigate their routes to and from school. These tips include:
- Practicing the route: Before the school year starts, walk the route to and from school with your children. Point out potential dangers and reinforce safe pedestrian behavior.
- Visibility and clothing: Dress your children in bright, high-contrast clothing that stands out and catches drivers’ attention. Look for clothing that incorporates colors like orange, yellow, pink, and fluorescent green. Attaching reflective accessories like stickers to their backpacks, jackets, or shoes improves visibility, especially during low-light conditions.
- Understanding the basics: Children should understand what traffic signals mean and when it is safe to cross the street. Teach them to Stop, Look, and Listen: stop at the curb, look both ways to ensure no cars are coming, and listen for any sounds of oncoming traffic.
- Walking on sidewalks and paths: Children should use sidewalks and designated pedestrian paths wherever possible. If there are no sidewalks, they should walk facing oncoming traffic as far off the road as possible.
- Crossing at crosswalks and intersections: Children should be taught to cross streets at marked crosswalks or intersections. They should never dart out into the street between parked cars or cross in the middle of the block.
- Traveling in groups: There is safety in numbers, so ask your children to walk in groups or with a responsible adult on their way to and from school. Ensure they use marked crosswalks and avoid jaywalking or taking shortcuts through alleys or poorly lit areas.
- Paying attention to crossing guards: School crossing guards help children cross busy streets safely. Teach your children to respect and follow their instructions.
- Using electronics responsibly: Distracted walking can be as dangerous as distracted driving. If your children need to use a smartphone or other electronic device, they should be taught to stop walking and find a safe place to use it.
- Understanding school bus safety: If children are getting on and off a school bus, they need to know the proper procedures. They should always cross the street in front of the bus, never behind it, and maintain a safe distance from the side of the bus.
While children should understand and follow pedestrian safety rules, drivers have a role to play in keeping the roads safe during the back-to-school season. Here are some tips that drivers in upstate New York should keep in mind:
- Slow down in school zones: Observe speed limits in school zones and neighborhoods where children may be walking to and from school. School zones’ speed limits are usually 10 mph lower than the surrounding roads during the start and end of the school day when children are likely to be present.
- Sharing the road with school buses: In New York State, passing a stopped school bus is illegal when its red lights are flashing. When the lights flash, children are either getting on or off the bus. Always stop, whether following the bus or approaching it from the front on a two-lane road, multi-lane highway, or divided highway, and wait until the lights stop flashing before proceeding.
Always maintain a safe distance of at least 20 feet from school buses. This allows children ample space to enter and exit the vehicle safely. Remember to exercise patience and wait for the bus to resume motion before proceeding.
- Avoid distractions: Between 2017 and 2021, 12% of all fatal crashes in New York were the result of distracted drivers. New York prohibits the use of electronic devices, such as talking or texting on cell phones, while driving.
Never text or use your phone while driving. Keep your full attention on the road, especially in areas where children might be walking or playing.
- Be vigilant at crosswalks: Always yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. Children can be unpredictable, so be prepared for them to enter the crosswalk at any time. Make eye contact with pedestrians waiting to cross if possible.
- Be aware of your surroundings: Children may be walking on sidewalks, in parking lots, or near school buses after disembarking. They may not always pay attention to their surroundings, so drivers must be alert.
- Exercise patience: Remember, it might take a little longer to get where you’re going during the back-to-school season. Be patient, understanding, and put safety first.
School zones pose additional hazards for drivers and pedestrians, and accidents may happen without proper safety precautions. If you or your children have been involved in a pedestrian accident in New York, seek legal counsel from Catalano Law.
Our experienced attorneys specialize in pedestrian accidents and are dedicated to advocating for pedestrian safety while securing fair compensation for victims. Schedule a free case review today.