As an educator, you’ve witnessed or heard about close-calls or, sadly, tragedies involving students hit by a vehicle while on their way to or from school. You know firsthand that areas near schools and bus stops are becoming more and more dangerous as aggressive and distracted driving has become the unfortunate norm.
Educators and safety groups are working hard to reverse this trend, and there are four ways that you, your colleagues and your neighbors can help.
1. Drive safely in school zones
These simple rules can make dropping off and picking up students at school much safer:
- Build extra time into your schedule so you can avoid rushing
- Be aware of highly populated school zones
- Slow down and observe school-area speed limits
- Never drive distracted, especially in areas where children travel to and from school
- Be patient around crowded drop-off and pick-up areas
- Avoid double parking or blocking crosswalks
- Always be aware of and yield to pedestrians
2. Drive safely near school bus stops
As students rush to and from their school bus on busy streets, keep these rules in mind:
- Allow more following distance behind school buses
- Yield to buses at all times
- When you see a school bus with flashing lights and the stop arm extended, stop—whether you’re behind the bus or on the other side of the street
- Watch for children crossing the street to board or get off a bus
- Never pass a bus that is slowing down for a stop
3. Teach students to be safe on their commute
Educators and their parents should go over safety rules as students head back to school:
- Look both ways before crossing a street (even to board a school bus)
- No games or goofing off at busy streets or intersections
- Avoid being distracted by phone calls, texting or loud music while walking to or from school or the bus stop
- Watch for cars backing up in school parking areas
- When bicycling, always ride with traffic as far to the right as possible, stay in bike lanes, and use hand signals
Another option is to bring the “Impact Teen Drivers” curriculum to your classroom to address the issue of reckless and distracted driving. Impact Teen Drivers is a national nonprofit dedicated to ending distracted driving, the No. 1 killer of teens. California Casualty, which provides the NEA Auto and Home Insurance Program, is a founding member and supporter of the program. Your students also can enter the Create Real Impact contest, which awards students and schools for their creative peer-to-peer messaging about the problem.
4. Advocate for local safety improvements
If your school hasn’t done so already, you can work with your local school board or jurisdiction to improve visibility with warning signs, clearly marked crosswalks and speed-limit signage with flashing lights.
Other recommended safety measures around schools include:
- Traffic safety cones
- Street narrowing
- Speed bumps
- Crossing guards
- Increased police presence and traffic safety enforcement
Working together, parents, teachers, administrators and school support staff can make the simple act of getting to school safer for our kids and students.