Next week, kids across North America will be heading back to class. And while they’re busy filling their minds with the knowledge of the world, we want to fill your minds with some basic safety tips for driving through school zones and around school buses.

School zones are busy spots as buses, cars, minivans, bikes and walking students flock together to start and end their days. Whenever you have a large convergence of traffic, you know that there is a lot going on and that not everyone is paying attention. When you’re behind the wheel, your focus needs to be on your surrounds 100% of the time. This is even more critical in school zones, where kids can break loose at a second’s notice.

Get Through School Zones Safely

Watch for School Zone Signs – they are yellow signs that feature 2 students with books in hand and are pretty much universally used. When you see that you are entering a school zone.

Reduce your speed – speed limits around school zones are always lower than other routes, so be sure to slow down and obey the posted speed limit when entering a school zone.

Never, ever pass a stopped school bus – when a bus is stopped, it generally means that kids are getting on or off and they are likely crossing the street. In most cases, traffic in both directions must stop for school buses when the lights are flashing.

Never, ever pass other vehicles while in a school zone – no matter how slow the vehicle ahead of you is going – don’t put children’s lives at risk by speeding past slower moving traffic.

Obey the crossing guards – school crossing guards are there to assist children crossing the street. They are legally allowed to stop traffic. When signaled by crossing guards, come to a complete stop and remain stopped until the children, and crossing guard are safely out of the roadway.

Sharing the Roadways safely with School Buses

We said it above, and we’ll say it again – never, ever pass a stopped school bus. This may seem like the most common-sense rule when talking about sharing the roadways safely with school buses, but you would be surprised at how many people just don’t stop.

Here are a few more things to remember about driving safely around school buses:

  • When you see a bus starting to slow down to stop where there is no traffic control slow down too. Don’t pass before they can get the arm out and their lights on. It’s not a race.
  • Stay at least 15 feet back. The 10 feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for kids. Keep that area clear. We have a blind spot in front of our trucks so give a little more room, so you don’t force kids to cross directly in front of the grill where you can’t see them.
  • Try to see everything. Keep an eye on the kids getting off the bus. You should always know what’s happening around your vehicle.
  • Wait until the school bus retracts the arm, turns off its lights, and starts to move again before you start to move forward.
  • Remember, school buses stop at all railroad crossings.