With a new school year comes new routines, new school buses and routes, new students walking or riding their bicycles to school for the first time and new teen drivers. Parent pickup lines can be hectic as parents rush to drop their kids off before heading to work.
It's tempting to speed, hurry through the red light, and roll through stop signs. But this is the most important time of year for motorists to slow down and pay close attention when children are present. In fact, courts in Illinois and elsewhere have found that drivers have a heightened duty of care in neighborhoods or school zones.
You also have to anticipate that children may not use the same foresight and care that adults would use. Therefore, you must be prepared to stop for pedestrians and bicyclists in school zones.
How You Can Keep Commuting Chicago Students Safer
Recently, the National Safety Council (NSC) outlined some tips to help improve child bicycle and pedestrian safety during morning and afternoon rush hours. This includes specific breakdowns for those in the parent drop-off/pickup lines, those who encounter child pedestrians and bicyclists and drivers sharing the road with school buses.
Schools in Chicago, like almost everywhere else, have very specific drop-off and pickup procedures that must be followed. Make sure you know these well. Additionally:
- Avoid double-parking, which can make it harder to see other motorists and students.
- Don't drop your children off across the street from the school.
- Consider carpooling to reduce the number of vehicles in line.
While school bus accidents tend to garner a lot of attention, the majority of kids who die in school bus accidents are those (usually between the ages of 4 and 7) struck while walking. To help ensure children stay safe, bear in mind the following:
- If there's a crosswalk, don't block it while you're waiting at a red light or to make a turn. If you force a pedestrian to walk around you, that may put them directly into a line of moving traffic.
- Yield to all pedestrians in school zone crosswalks or intersections.
- If a crossing guard or school patrol officer holds up a hand or stop sign, obey it immediately.
- Never pass any car that is stopped for pedestrians.
When encountering bicyclists in school zones:
- Make sure you leave a minimum of three feet between you and a bicycle if you're passing.
- Be especially watchful for bikes in residential neighborhoods or school zones, and keep an eye out for bicyclists who turn in front of you without looking or signaling.