Goodbye summer, hello school! Pretty soon, Wisconsin roads will be filled with school buses, parents, students, and teachers heading back for a new school year and activities. This can lead to congestion on the roads, busier crosswalks, and other traffic delays, especially if your commute is on a school bus route. Give yourself a refresher with these safe driving tips so everyone can have a safe school year.
Back to School Safe Driving Tips
Driving Around a Bus
You know the big yellow school buses are a sign that school is back in session. Before you head out the door this fall, make sure you’re aware of the limits school buses have and the additional driving rules they must follow:
- Know when you need to stop for a bus. If you are driving in the opposite direction of a bus on a two-lane road, you must come to a complete stop when a bus has their red lights flashing and stop sign extended. This is also the rule If you are on a four-lane road (that doesn’t have a median dividing it), and the bus is in the opposite direction. If you are on a divided road and driving the opposite direction of a bus, you will not need to stop when the bus does.
- Obey the flashing lights. All 50 states require vehicles to stop for a stopped school bus with their flashing lights on. Flashing yellow lights indicate the bus is preparing to stop and unload or load passengers, and you should slow down in preparation to stop. Flashing red lights usually have the extended stop arm also deployed. This indicates students are in the process of getting on the bus or getting off. Vehicles must wait until the lights stop flashing, the arm is retracted, and the bus is moving again before continuing their route.
- Remember buses frequently stop. Don’t forget that buses stop and open their doors at every train track. If you are driving behind a school bus, leave enough stopping space between your vehicle and the bus at all times.
- Don’t pass. Even if you’re running late, don’t pass a bus when it slows down or stops. You never know if someone is walking in front of the bus that you can’t see. In Wisconsin, it is illegal to pass a bus that has come to a complete stop.
Don’t Drive Distracted
Distracted driving can be one of the riskiest choices to make while behind the wheel. With the start of school and an increase of diversions on the road, it’s important to remember to:
- Stay Alert: Even if you don’t live near a school, students, parents, and teachers commute from all over your community. As the school year starts, keep an extra eye out for kids waiting at their bus stop, utilizing the crosswalk, or extra traffic from students and teachers on the road. Always avoid distractions while behind the wheel, especially on your phone.
- Lower the Music: Many people love listening to music with the windows down when they drive while the weather is still enjoyable. However, if your music is too loud, you risk missing sirens, horns, or other important signals. Keep it at a reasonable volume so everyone can get to their destinations safely.
- Check & Wait for Pedestrians: Take a few seconds to ensure no one is approaching crosswalks as you’re driving. Lower your speed near crosswalks just in case you need to come to a quick stop.
Tips for Passengers & Pedestrians
Passengers in a vehicle or on a bus can also play a role in keeping everyone safe on the roads.
- Always wear your seatbelt. Keep all passengers and pets secure in the vehicle at all times. If you’re a passenger on a school bus, never leave your seat while the bus is in motion.
- Wait for all clear. School bus passengers should always wait for the bus driver to give the signal that it’s safe to cross the street to board or depart the bus. Take an extra moment to check for cars before crossing the street, even after the bus driver said it was okay.
- Don’t distract the driver. Save the exciting stories or car games until you get to your destination so the driver can focus on the road.
- Take another look. Before stepping into a crosswalk, pedestrians should check in both directions of traffic at least twice to be sure traffic is stopped or clear to cross. Just because you have the legal right-of-way in the crosswalk doesn’t mean a vehicle can stop in time to let you cross.
Rural Mutual wants to keep everyone safe on and off the roads year-round. Reach out to your local agent to learn more about road safety and how you can be protected.