It’s that time of year again. In the coming weeks, kids across the country will say goodbye to summer and head back to class for a new school year. Whether the children in your life walk, bike, or ride the bus to school, it’s a great time to review traffic safety basics with them. Here we offer the best back to school safety tips for kids, plus reminders for motorists about Maryland school bus laws.
Walking to School
It’s never too early to teach kids about pedestrian safety. Good habits when they’re young will lay the foundation for good safety decisions through their teen years and adulthood. Be sure kids walking to school understand that they should:
- Always use sidewalks, crosswalks, and pedestrian safety signals. Walk the route with them ahead of time to show them the safest path and any hazards they should specifically watch for.
- Remember to stop at driveways. Cars backing out of driveways may not have great visibility, so it’s important for kids to pause and make sure it’s safe.
- Stop, look, and listen for cars before crossing. Teach kids to use all their senses before taking that first step into the street. Older children should also learn to make eye contact with drivers before crossing, whenever possible.
- Avoid distracted walking. Kids should stay off phones or other electronics while walking to school. They should leave headphones at home, as well.
Biking to School
If your child rides a bike to school, the beginning of a new year is a good time for basic bike maintenance. Check that the tires are in good shape and that the seat and handlebars are appropriate for their height. Kids riding bikes should also:
- Always wear a helmet. Check that the helmet still fits and make sure your child understands they need to wear it for every ride.
- Dress for visibility. Bright colors and clothing with reflective strips will help motorists see kids on bikes more easily, even in daylight.
- Choose a safe path. Help them map their route beforehand, staying on sidewalks wherever permitted.
- Follow all traffic signals. In this context, their bikes are not toys. They should ride predictably, always riding in a straight line and obeying traffic signals.
Riding the Bus
For children who ride the bus to school, talk about safe behaviors at the bus stop, as well as how to approach and board safely when the bus arrives. Remind bus riders to:
- Get to the bus stop on time. Far too many kids get hurt running to catch the bus when they’re late.
- Stay away from the road. Kids should wait quietly at the bus stop, being careful to stay away from traffic.
- Avoid the ‘danger zone’ where it’s difficult for the bus driver to see them. When the bus arrives, they also should wait until the bus driver signals for them to board and do so one at a time.
- Never try to retrieve lost papers or other belongings dropped near the bus. Instead, they should talk with the driver who can direct them or help them get their items back safely.
School Bus Laws
The new school year is also a great time for motorists to review the current school bus laws. In Maryland, drivers must come to a complete stop twenty meters from the bus if:
- Traveling the same direction. Whether the road has a single lane, multiple lanes, or is divided by a turning lane, you must stop.
- Traveling the opposite direction on an undivided road. In other words, on roads without a central median, you must stop for buses on either side. (Note: in some other states, you’ll have to stop even if there is a median.)
Protecting Young Pedestrians
Pedestrians are among the most vulnerable travelers on our roads and children are one of the groups most at risk. Kids are not always good at assessing danger, so it may be up to you to prevent a deadly crash. Respect young pedestrians who have the right of way and be extra vigilant when you see kids on their way to and from school.