Go back to basics with back-to-school driving safety

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published September 15, 2015

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Summer can make students forgetful of their previous learning, but many drivers also need a refresher lesson on what to do when they see a school bus making a stop, according to state traffic safety experts.

Susan Hiltz, public affairs director for AAA Michigan, said the biggest thing that motorists need to keep in mind is that traffic patterns have changed, particularly around the high-risk period of 3-7 p.m.

“Now that the kids are back in school, we see more buses on the road, children standing curbside, more congestion around schools,” she said. “It’s just really vital that all of us motorists are paying close attention and being extra cautious while driving around this time of the year.”

According to a recent press release, AAA reminds drivers to avoid distracted driving, to be aware of blind spots while moving a car in reverse and to stop completely at stop signs instead of rolling through them. It also urges people to abide by reduced speed limits in school zones and in neighborhoods.

“A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling 25 mph is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling just 10 mph faster,” AAA said.

Fred Woodhams, spokesman for Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, said drivers should stop at least 20 feet away from a school bus that has its flashing red lights on. He said the bus will display yellow overhead lights before switching to the red ones as a warning for traffic to stop.

When the bus is ready to move again, it will put on its yellow hazard lights, and then the driver may proceed cautiously, Woodhams added.

“People should always stop for a bus when it has its red lights,” he said. “They can get a ticket if they were to proceed around the bus. They are also endangering the lives of children.”

With schools back open, drivers should watch for children near bus stops who may dart into traffic or between parked cars, he said.

“Children, especially the small ones, are hard to see, especially in the early morning hours when the sun isn’t up yet,” he added.

Visit AAA Michigan’s website by going to www.michigan.aaa.com. Learn more about the Michigan Secretary of State by visiting www.michigan.gov/sos.

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