As the summer draws to a close, parents and children must start to prepare for the new school year. While this can be a busy time of year with back-to-school shopping and more rigorous schedules, this year is likely to be particularly hectic as schools open for in-person classes for the first time in over a year.
In addition to the increased number of vehicles on the road, the morning commute can be a stressful time for parents who are trying to get their children off to school. Motorists are urged to use extra caution when driving during this time of year, particularly if they are traversing through a school zone where children are likely to be riding their bikes and crossing the streets. If a motorist, bicyclist, or pedestrian is injured in a car accident during the busy back-to-school season, they are urged to contact a lawyer as soon as possible. Listed below are ways drivers can stay safe during the school season.
Be Careful in School Zones
Safety should be always a top priority for all motorists. However, this is particularly true when driving in a school zone where children are present. The following are some of the top school zone safety tips that motorists should keep in mind:
- Pay close attention to school zone signs, and always obey the reduced speed limits.
- Always stop when a school bus is picking up or dropping off children.
- When a crossing guard is on duty, always obey their signals, and wait until all children and the crossing guard are safely out of the street before continuing to drive.
- When driving near a school, school bus, bus stop, or a school parking lot, use extreme caution, and always look out for children who may cross the street without warning.
- Do not pass other vehicles, change lanes, or make U-turns when driving in a school zone.
- Never text or talk on the phone, particularly when driving in a school zone.
- Be careful around newly licensed teenage motorists who are more likely to text or talk on the phone while driving or engage in other unsafe behaviors.
- When dropping off or picking up a child from school, do not block emergency vehicle lanes.
- Motorists may not use handicap spots or lanes unless they have a disabled parking placard or license plate.
Watch Out for Pedestrians
The following are safety precautions that motorists should take to avoid an accident with a pedestrian, including young children who do not understand the rules of the road:
- Do not block a crosswalk when stopped at a red light or a stop sign. This forces pedestrians to walk around the vehicle, putting them in the path of moving traffic.
- Motorists must always yield to pedestrians who are crossing at a crosswalk or an intersection in a designated school zone.
- Always stop if a school patrol officer or crossing guard is holding up a stop sign and follow the direction they indicate.
- When driving in a school zone, near playgrounds, or in a residential area, motorists are urged to use extra caution and look for children who may be playing, riding a bike, or walking in the vicinity.
- Never honk the horn, use rude gestures, or drive aggressively in a school zone. Depending on the circumstances, this can lead to civil liability or criminal charges.
- Do not attempt to pass a vehicle that has stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross.
- Even if the motorist has the right-of-way, they should take the necessary precautions to avoid hitting a pedestrian or bicyclist in a school zone.
Drive Safely Around School Buses
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), 95 people were killed in school bus accidents in 2017. In addition, the majority of children who suffered fatal injuries in bus-related accidents were pedestrians between 4 to 7 years old. When sharing the road with a school bus, it is important for motorists to keep the following safety tips in mind:
- Do not pass a bus when children are getting on or off the bus. Traffic on the opposite side of the road may proceed if there is a physical barrier dividing the flow of traffic. Otherwise, traffic coming from both directions must stop.
- Motorists must stop far enough behind the bus to allow children enough space. The 10-foot area surrounding the bus is the most dangerous for children.
- Pay attention to children. Children do not fully understand the flow of traffic, and they are more likely to run into the street and fail to use the appropriate signals when riding a bike. Therefore, motorists must keep their attention focused on the road and pay attention to children in the vicinity.
What can I Do to Avoid a Back-to-School Accident?
The American Automobile Association (AAA) launched the School’s Open-Drive Carefully! campaign to raise awareness of safety issues and reduce child injuries and fatalities caused by car accidents. Motorists can reduce the risk of a serious car accident by keeping the following AAA recommendations in mind:
- Slow down. Speed limits are lower in school zones to protect children who are going to and from school. If a pedestrian is hit by a car that is travelling at a speed of 25 miles per hour, they are two-thirds less likely to suffer fatal injuries compared to a pedestrian who is hit by a car that is travelling 35 miles per hour.
- Obey stop signs. Some motorists do not come to a complete stop at posted stop signs in school zones or residential neighborhoods. Always stop at a red light and stop sign, and check for children in the area before proceeding.
- Avoid distractions. Do not talk or text on the phone, eat or drink, reach for something in the back seat, or engage in other reckless behaviors while driving, particularly when traveling through a school zone. One moment of distraction can lead to devastating consequences.
- Use caution when reversing. Whether a motorist is driving a new vehicle that has rear view cameras or a vehicle that is not equipped with this technology, they should use extra caution when backing out of a parking spot, a driveway or pulling out of a parking spot.
- Discuss car safety with teenage drivers. Car accidents are the leading cause of death among teenagers in the United States.
What Should I Do After an Accident in a School Zone?
There are important steps that all motorists should take if they are involved in a car accident, including those that occur in a school zone:
- Call 911 so that dispatch can send police to the scene. If there are injuries involved, the operator will send an ambulance to the scene as well.
- Exchange information with the other driver, including contact information, the driver’s license number, license plate number, and insurance information.
- If there are witnesses who saw the accident happen, ask if they are willing to provide a statement, and get their contact information as well.
- Seek immediate medical attention. Even if the injuries seem minor, motorists are strongly urged to go to the closest emergency room so that they can be thoroughly examined by a physician.
- Collect evidence. Take pictures of the accident scene, including damage to the vehicles, injuries, debris on the road, current weather conditions, and any other evidence that can be helpful during the claims process.
If the injured motorist can prove that the other driver is at fault, the injured party may be eligible to file a personal injury claim. The victim must file a claim within two years of the date of the accident. A failure to meet this deadline will likely result in the case being dismissed.
Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyers at ACTS Law Help Injured Drivers During Back-to-School Season
Back-to-school season can be a dangerous time for motorists. If you were injured in a car accident during back-to-school season, contact the Los Angeles car accident lawyers at ACTS Law. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 833-ACTS-LAW or contact us online. Based in Los Angeles and San Diego, we serve clients throughout Southern California.