Classes are resuming this month at most Arkansas schools, and that means drivers will need to watch for increased numbers of students and school buses on the roads.
According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) fact sheet, 264 school-age children died in transportation-related accidents in the U.S. between 2008 and 2017. Sixty-one of the children who died in that 10-year period were occupants of school transportation vehicles, 100 were occupants of other vehicles, 97 were pedestrians, five were pedal cyclists, and one was using an unspecified conveyance.
Here are some tips for back-to-school safety:
- Stop for school buses. When a school bus stops and displays its alternating red warning lights, that means children are getting on or off the bus. Arkansas drivers approaching from any direction are required by law to stop and not move until the bus has finished receiving or discharging passengers and is in motion again. The only exception is for drivers on the opposite side of a divided multi-lane highway from a school bus; they are not required to stop. Act 166 of 2019 increased the maximum fine for unlawfully passing a school bus from $1,000 to $2,500.
- Reduce speed and watch for children in school zones. Arkansas law prohibits driving faster than 25 mph in a school zone. You may want to allow extra time to get to and from work if your route goes through a school zone. Using a cell phone without a hands-free device while driving in a school zone is also prohibited; Act 738 of 2019 made it a primary offense, meaning a driver can be stopped for this violation alone. Obey a crossing guard or school officer who signals by hand or with a sign for you to stop. When stopping at a crosswalk, do not block the crosswalk and force children to walk around your vehicle. Keep in mind that children can behave suddenly and unpredictably.
- Park safely when dropping off or picking up children. Don’t double park or park across the street from the school. Learn the school’s drop-off procedures and follow them. Carpooling improves safety by reducing the numbers of cars at the school.