As the school year starts back up in New York, school zone safety is essential to protect our children. These zones are designed to create a safe environment for students to travel to and from school, reducing the risk of accidents and promoting pedestrian safety.
New York has stringent regulations for drivers in school zones to protect drivers and pedestrians, such as reduced speed limits during specific hours and mandatory stops for school buses. All motorists can benefit from understanding the laws and expectations while driving in a school zone and the steps to take if involved in a school zone crash.
School zones are designated areas surrounding educational institutions to ensure the safety of students, parents, pedestrians, and drivers during school hours. Typically marked by reduced speed limits and warning signs, these zones help mitigate potential hazards.
Common causes of accidents in school zones include:
- Distracted driving
- Failure to yield to pedestrians
- Passing a stopped school bus
Children are particularly vulnerable to injury or death in these accidents due to their small size and limited road awareness.
School zone accidents differ from other areas due to specific safety measures and potential legal consequences.
The major difference regarding school zones lies in reduced speed limits, often 10 mph lower than adjoining road segments. These lower speeds provide crucial reaction time, particularly for navigating areas with a concentrated number of young pedestrians.
To address heightened risks, penalties for violations within school zones are often higher, aiming to deter reckless behavior. Drivers who break school zone traffic laws may also have an increased liability for negligence.
In New York, a school zone is not limited to the roadways immediately in front of the school building. NY DOT designates the school zone as a “distance of 1,320 feet along a highway passing a school building entrance or exit of a school abutting on the highway.” This means that the school zone may start before you notice a school building.
New York law VAT § 1180 also applies speed limits in school zones between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. to protect the safety of students and pedestrians. Speed limits in school zones are typically reduced to 15 to 20 mph during school hours. This creates a safer environment for young pedestrians crossing roads or walking to or from school.
These speed limits are strictly enforced to prevent accidents and ensure drivers exercise caution.
During school hours, drivers are also prohibited from passing school buses when they are stopped with their red lights flashing. The lights indicate students are boarding or disembarking. Violating this law can lead to penalties, including fines and license points.
Crossing guards play a vital role in school zone safety by assisting children in crossing busy streets. They ensure safe crossings, help manage traffic flow, and act as a visual deterrent to speeding drivers. Following crossing guard guidelines helps maintain a secure environment around schools and fosters responsible driving habits.
In New York, breaking school zone laws can result in significant penalties. For speeding in a school zone, penalties vary depending on the speed over the limit and may result in prison time. Additionally, a conviction for speeding in a school zone can add 3 to 11 points to a driver’s license, potentially leading to license suspension or revocation.
|Speed Violation Range||Penalty||Fine Range||Imprisonment|
|Up to 10 MPH Over||Fine or Imprisonment||$45 – $150||No more than 15 days|
|More than 10 – 30 MPH||Fine, Imprisonment, or Both||$90 – $300||No more than 30 days|
|More than 30 MPH||Fine, Imprisonment, or Both||$180 – $600||No more than 30 days|
|Inappropriate speed||Additional Fines for More Than One Violation||$45 – $150||No more than 15 days|
Additionally, severe violations like passing a stopped school bus can lead to even harsher consequences. A first offense of passing a stopped school bus can result in a fine of up to $400, five points on the driver’s license, and potential imprisonment for up to 30 days. Subsequent offenses can lead to increased fines and longer imprisonment.
In addition to criminal charges, drivers may face civil liability if their actions cause injury or harm in a school zone. They may be held financially responsible for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages resulting from the accident.
In the unfortunate event of a school zone accident, knowing what to do can significantly affect your claim for compensation. Follow these steps to ensure safety, proper documentation, and the right actions for resolution:
- Prioritize safety and assistance: Immediately attend to the well-being of everyone involved. If possible, move vehicles to avoid blocking traffic.
- Notify authorities and seek medical attention: Call the police to report the accident and always seek medical assistance for any injuries.
- Gather evidence and exchange information: Document the scene by taking photos, noting weather conditions, and collecting contact information from witnesses—exchange details with other parties involved.
- Contact insurance and legal professionals: Inform your insurance company about the accident to initiate the claims process. In case of injuries or substantial damage, seek advice from legal experts to understand your rights and potential legal steps.
Despite following school zone rules, you may still be involved in an accident due to poor weather, mechanical failure, or another driver’s negligent actions. Our car accident attorneys at Catalano Law can help you understand your rights and legal options after a school zone collision.
We will review your case during a free initial consultation to determine liability and help you hold those responsible for your injuries accountable. Contact our attorneys today to schedule a free case review where we can discuss your case and help you determine your next legal steps.