School Is Back in Session . . . Is anyone paying attention?

With the start of the new school year, already a number of school-zone accidents are being reported. Unfortunately some are bad accidents. Here are several:

The Daily Republic reported on September 19, 2012 a fatal accident occurred when a vehicle failed to yield to a semi-truck at a close intersection resulting in the truck striking several other parked vehicles before plowing through the school, which was still in session.

“You kind of look at it and go wow. How fast was it going to have ended up there?” said Torri Adams.

On September 14, 2012 a three year old toddler was killed according to the Stoughton Patch, after being hit by a box truck in front of the Hansen Elementary School. A preliminary investigation indicates no charges will be filed against the driver.

School Zones

In approaching a school zone (or any “zone” for that matter), drivers need to take time to be alert to all of their surroundings. Watch for “feet” behind parked vehicles; bicycles near the crosswalks or small children.

Traffic experts advise that 90% of accidents could be avoided if the driver had one extra second of time. To gain that extra second of time – slow down. Keep and stay under the posted speed limit.

Watch for the school zone and crossing signs or flashing school-zone lights. In some states the lights will flash 30 minutes before and after school starts and ends, and during lunchtime. Driving 25 MPH or less, or whatever the posted speed, takes a lot of self-discipline.

Never overtake or pass a vehicle in a school zone; a school zone is a “no-passing zone” for good reason — that other vehicle may be slowing down for a child or crossing guard.

Expect the unexpected: children age 10 and under do not have good traffic sense – they may step or dart out in front of traffic. Always be ready to make a quick stop; it may save a life.

If practical, avoid driving near schools. Some states even have anti-idling laws that prohibit parking over a few minutes while the engine is running within 1,000 feet of a school; in other states fines and “points” may be doubled within a zone in citations against the driver. Concerns of school boards can lead to banning truck traffic or operations.

Once past the opposite school zone sign — known by its distinct, five-sided sign shape, the school zone has ended. Continue to stay alert.

Negotiating Intersections

Again, pay attention, adjust speed, scan the intersection Left-Right and Left again, and “cover the brake” before the intersection (take your foot off of the fuel pedal and “hover” it over the brake pedal). Prepare to yield right of way, if necessary, to avoid a collision.

Most fatal accidents involve failure to yield right-of-way. Always be ready to give up your right-of-way at an intersection. Look for errant drivers who may be running a “late yellow” or simply following the car ahead of them through a red light.

Make full stops at stop signs — this habit, too, gives extra time to see those “cars from nowhere,” motorcycles or off-color cars that blend in with your “A-Pillar” or support frame at the ends of the windshield.

Slow down, pay attention and be a model of safety for the rest of us. Nothing can make things right when it comes to the loss of a child.



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