Safety Around Schools

It’s about time for school to finish up for the year. But don’t get too excited, because it’s still critical that you’re focused when you’re driving to pick up your kids or passing by a school. Every year, pedestrians are injured because both they and a driver weren’t paying attention. Around a school, it’s important to be extra alert. The younger they are, the less likely they are to be alert to what’s going on around them.

Kids, ideally, are taught to look both ways when crossing the street, but if something else has drawn their limited focused, they might dart across the street suddenly and without looking. Because they’re small, you can’t always see them coming, either, so when you’re passing by cars, be aware in case a child steps out from behind one. Or, if you’re backing up, make sure there are no children around your car because some children don’t always know what the reverse lights on a vehicle mean.

Pay attention to the time of day, too. If you’re driving by as school is getting ready to begin or just ending, expect there to be plenty of pedestrian traffic. But even during evenings, and throughout the Summer, remember that there might be other events going on at a school. If you see a lot of cars parked, expect that there’s at least potential for there to be ample pedestrian traffic. If you see school buses, parked or in motion, that’s an even more obvious sign. Don’t forget, when a school bus puts out its stop sign, that means traffic in both directions stops.

Remember to make pedestrian’s lives easier by not blocking crosswalks. And when you see a vehicle stopped at a crosswalk, it’s probably stopped for pedestrians, so don’t change lanes and zoom by it. Many people don’t know this, but in Oregon, all intersections are considered crosswalks. According to this State of Oregon publication:

“A crosswalk exists at any public street intersection, whether marked with paint or unmarked. Crosswalks also exist between intersections (mid-block) only if they are marked with white painted lines.”

“Under Oregon law, a pedestrian is crossing the roadway in a crosswalk when any part or extension of the pedestrian, including but not limited to any part of the pedestrian’s body, wheelchair, cane, crutch or bicycle, moves into the roadway in a crosswalk with the intent to proceed.”

All the usual good driving advice applies here as well. Get off your phone, and leave plenty of space for braking. The penalties for breaking the law in a school zone are increased, and you’re not likely to get sympathy from the legal system when you’re breaking the rules in a school zone. But you’re not alone in this; everyone else needs to be responsible too. And while you can’t force good behavior on the part of other people around you, one thing that you can do is talk to your kids about traffic safety. They need to be alert as they moving around outside schools just as much as you do. It’s important for them to understand that they need to pay attention just as much as drivers.

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