How Can You Avoid a Back-to-School Accident?
August 29, 2022
Back-to-school season is a time when children are excited about racing to bus stops, while busy parents adjust to school bus traffic and changing schedules. A new school season also brings new driving challenges, potential safety hazards, and the need to be vigilant.
Many teenage drivers will also be on the road for the first time this school season, which makes it important for parents to prepare their teen drivers and for other motorists to stay extra alert in school zones.
School Bus Safety
School bus safety is top priority in Pennsylvania. There are many people who play important roles in keeping children safe while on or around school buses, including, parents, teachers, school administrators, transportation personnel, and public motorists. While motorists should always remain alert and focused on the road, there are even more reasons to take precautions during the school year.
School buses require particular attention given they carry groups of young people, government owned and operated, and have strict regulations for their drivers. Motorists sharing the road with school buses must also follow certain laws when driving near or around school buses and are responsible for learning them.
The following are important driving laws that Pennsylvania motorists should know during back-to-school season:
- Motorists must stop when they are behind a school bus, meeting the bus, or approaching an intersection whenever a bus is stopped.
- When school buses have their red lights flashing and stop-arm extended, motorists must stop at least 10 feet away.
- Motorists traveling alongside a school bus also must stop until the bus’s red lights have stopped flashing and the stop-arm is withdrawn.
- If physical barriers such as concrete median barriers, guide rails, or grassy medians separate oncoming traffic from a school bus, motorists in the opposing lanes may proceed without stopping.
- Motorists must never proceed until all the children have reached a safe area. This applies to drivers coming from all directions.
- Double-parked cars present extra hazards in many ways, so motorists should slow down and be alert when approaching them. Motorists need to watch out for parked car doors to open unexpectedly and students exiting on street sides or darting out in front of their cars.
Additionally, the speed limit in Pennsylvania school zones is 15 miles per hour. A speeding ticket in a school zone involves a fine and three points added to the speeding motorist’s driving record.
Speed-related car accidents are common and involve much more than simply paying a fine or going to traffic court. Anyone involved in a speed-related car accident in a school zone or with a school bus should seek the assistance of an experienced lawyer.
Driving Safely Around Pedestrians
Any time motorists are driving near schools, they need to be especially alert because children are often distracted themselves. Today, it is common for children to be focused on their phones, listening to music with ear pods, or chatting with friends while walking near schools. Younger children are unpredictable and more likely to dart out between cars or run unexpectedly into the street. It is essential that motorists remain watchful when driving near children in school zones and neighboring areas.
Bicycles present an additional hazard near schools, so drivers need to keep ample distance from children on bikes. On most roads, bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists, but bicycles can be hard to see. Children riding bikes create hazards for drivers since they are often not able to properly determine traffic and road conditions.
When passing a bicyclist, drivers may proceed in the same direction slowly, and they must leave 3 feet between their vehicle and the cyclist. While the most common cause of bicycle accidents is when a motorist is turning left in front of a cyclist and causes a collision, drivers must also watch out for children on bikes coming from driveways or behind parked cars.
Generally, it is wise to plan ahead and leave on time to decrease the likelihood of speeding or being distracted while driving. Families with children who take the school bus should also make sure they leave with plenty of time to get to the school bus stop. Children who are late often have an urge to run which can be dangerous.
Helping Your Teenage Driver
Teen drivers can present risk to themselves and others on the road. There are several reasons teen drivers are more likely to get into a fatal car accident than older drivers, including lack of experience on the road, driving while distracted, and failure to wear a seat belt.
Fortunately, there are ways to prepare your teen drivers and help keep them safe when they travel to school or other activities, including:
- Be a good driving coach. Teen drivers need to gain experience with supervised practice under the guidance of an adult with many years of driving experience. Parents should continue to monitor their teens’ driving habits, while teens should continue to practice supervised driving with an experienced adult even after they get their driver’s license.
- Talk about distractions. Distracted driving is a leading cause of car accidents, particularly for teen drivers who are often attached to their phones. Parents should enforce no texting and driving, and tell their teens to not eat, adjust music, or be distracted by conversations with friends in the car. It is helpful to keep firm rules in place, such as putting the phone on Do Not Disturb mode and keeping it somewhere out of reach.
- Discuss road rage. It does not matter how late they are for school or if they think someone cut them off on the way to a football game, teen drivers should be taught to never get angry behind the wheel and take it out on others on the road.
- Limit teen passengers. The rate of car accidents involving teen drivers increases with each teen passenger in the car. An important safety rule is to limit the number of teen passengers you allow your teen driver to travel with in their vehicle. Be cautious about who is allowed to travel with your teen driver.
- Enforce wearing a seat belt. Teens consistently have the lowest rate of seat belt wearing, making it that much more imperative for everyone in the family to always wear a seat belt.
- Limit frivolous driving trips. Restricting teen drivers’ excursions that are unnecessary and serve no purpose can decrease the chances of car accidents, especially during nighttime hours.
- Talk about alcohol and drugs. The influence of parent involvement with their teen driver lowers the rate of unsafe driving behaviors, including driving while under the influence. Communicating with teen drivers about the dangers of driving while under the influence can help decrease the likelihood of your teen driver being involved in a car crash.
- Remind teen drivers about speed limits. Speeding is a top factor in most car crashes. It is important to discuss the dangers of speeding with teen drivers, as well as the reduced speed limits in school zones.
- Do car maintenance. Parents and their teens should always keep their vehicle well-maintained. Keep an eye on tires, fluids, headlights, the car battery, and brakes. It is a good idea to keep an emergency kit in all vehicles as well.
We Can Help You After a Car Accident
You can help prevent a back-to-school car accident by being proactive and reviewing safety rules with your children and teen drivers.
Sometimes, an accident happens through no fault of your own, leaving you overwhelmed with a variety of damages. It is important to contact an experienced lawyer in those cases.
Galfand Berger LLP has a history of success recovering settlements for our clients who have been injured in car accidents:
Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Will Fight on Your Behalf After a Back-to-School Accident
Our dedicated Philadelphia car accident lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP recognize the importance of proving personal attention to each client. If you become injured in a back-to-school accident, call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Harrisburg.