According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) an average of 14 children die each year in school transportation related accidents, therefore; now that schools are back in session, children safety should be a priority for all drivers traveling in school areas.
D.C., Maryland and Virginia have the following school safety laws in effect:
- It is illegal to pass a stopped school bus that is loading or unloading children. The only exception to this rule is when you are traveling on a divided roadway.
- All traffic traveling directly behind a school bus must come to a complete stop until all children have loaded or unloaded the school bus and the lights on the school bus have turned off.
- The 10 feet surrounding the school bus is considered to be the most dangerous area for children, therefore; make sure and give more than the minimum amount of space between your vehicle and the school bus. In Maryland a vehicle must be at least 20 feet behind the stopped school bus and in the District of Columbia a vehicle must be at least 15 feet behind the stopped school bus.
- Keep a proper look out of children entering or exiting the school bus because most children consider the area that the school bus stops as a safe area and so they may be unaware of their surroundings or dangerous situations that could arise.
- School buses use yellow lights to advise drivers that they are approaching a stop and when the red lights and extended arm signal appear it means the school bus is at a complete stop and unloading or loading children.
- There are fines and points associated with speeding in a school zone. If you are issued a citation you will also be given 3 points on your license. If you are going more than 20 mph over the posted speed limit in a school zone you will be given 6 points on your license, a hefty citation and be charged with reckless driving. You may even lose your license for six months.
- When you approach a school zone, the safest thing to do is to travel at 25 mph as a maximum speed, unless otherwise stated by the posted speed limit signs.
- the majority of crashes involving children and school buses occur between 3 pm and 4 pm on weekdays, therefore; use extra caution during these times in school zones, as well as in the early morning hours.