The back-to-school season brings new driving challenges – more congestion, more yellow school buses on the road, more potential safety hazards, and more need for caution. This is especially true for teen drivers who may be driving for the first time during the back-to-school season. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. According to reports, more than 800 students in the US are killed annually, and another 152,000 are injured traveling between school and home.
So special attention and extra caution is needed. Here are a few safety reminders (for long-time drivers too) that you should follow to avoid getting into an auto accident in Long Island.
The law in every state requires you to stop when a school bus is on-loading and unloading students. When a stopped school bus flashes its red light(s), under New York law, all traffic from all directions must stop. You must stop even if the bus is on the other side of a divided highway. You may think that is ridiculous, but we are dealing with the safety of children and it is the law.
The law also requires you to stop in parking lots if a bus is loading or off-loading. In practice, this is your school’s parking lot. New York law requires you to stop for a bus in a parking lot just like on the roads. In addition, New York law requires you to keep your car 20 feet away — about half a basketball court — a from a bus that is loading or off-loading.
In general, drive slowly around the school buses. Driving extra slow gives you the chance to stop if a young kid does something unpredictable. Do not text or use your phone when you are driving. Seriously, around buses and children, just put the phone down for a few minutes. Do not use ear- or headphones, either. You need to be able to hear warning sounds. You are not allowed to drive while wearing ear- or headphones.
Double-parked cars present an extra hazard, so slow down and be more alert when approaching them. Watch for a door to open quickly and unexpectedly, watch for kids exiting on the street side, watch for children who might dart out in front of you and remember that your visibility is diminished.
The speed limit in school zones is 20 miles per hour. Yes, that is very slow. But, you want to be able to stop if a kid runs out unexpectedly in front of your car. Trust us on this. You really do NOT want to have to face the parent of the child you just hit with your car. Plus, driving 20 miles-per-hour in school zones is the law.
When driving near a school, you have to be extra alert, because the kids themselves are often distracted. You remember what it was like when you were walking or biking or boarding to school. You were listening to music, talking to your friends, and doing your own thing. In short, you were not paying very much attention. Now that you are a driver, you now have pay more attention because the children will not. Young children, in particular, are unpredictable and are more likely than older children to dart out between cars or run unexpectedly into the street. Be extra watchful if young children are present.
Bicycles present an extra hazard, so give them extra room on the roadways. Keep a slow speed and move over a little in your lane as you go around a bicycle.
Finally, be cautious of who you allow to ride in your car. You need to avoid supposed “friends” who want you to drive “fast and furious” or who disrespect your commitment to being a safe driver. If you have a friend like that, put them out of your car and keep them out until they stop applying peer pressure to make you do something that will get someone hurt or killed.
If you need additional information or want to understand your rights and obligations as a driver, contact an experienced Long Island accident lawyer at the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP at(866) 580-1960. We offer free, no cost/no obligation consultations and are available 24/7.