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AAA offers back-to-school traffic safety reminders

Published: Aug. 23, 2021 at 11:55 AM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ) - AAA is advising drivers to prepare for possible changes around school zones, and reminding them of some back-to-school road rules with buses and increased foot traffic.

AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesperson Morgan Dean says the best tips for drivers are to slow down, eliminate distractions, and expect the unexpected, and obey traffic signs in school zones.

Dean explains how back-to-school transportation affects not only school districts, students and parents, but other drivers on the roads.

With the 2019 change to Virginia law allowing schools to go back before Labor Day, drivers in some communities may see school buses on the road in August for the first time in decades.

Staggered schedules, social distancing and staffing shortages could mean school buses on the roads to transport students for longer periods of time in the morning and afternoon. Numerous school districts across the state are reporting bus driver shortages leading to the 2021-2022 school year.

“With some of the school bus shortages and social distancing that may be in place in some spots, it could be that drivers are doing more than one route to pick up students. That could extend that time that you’ll see buses in your neighborhood,” says Dean. “That’s why we’re telling drivers to give themselves extra time.”

More students may start walking or biking to school, increasing foot and bike traffic close to schools.

Improperly sized or incorrectly worn masks can limit a child’s vision and could put them at risk for not recognizing or seeing dangers in and along the road or in the bus loop.

Be aware of the time of day you’re on the road and how that coincides with the school day. More school-age pedestrians are killed from 7 to 8 a.m. and from 3 to 4 p.m. than any other hours of the day.

For parents dropping off and picking up their children from school, drivers should follow the posted procedures from districts, which may have changed since last year.

Drivers should not double-park, which could block visibility for other children and vehicles, and should not load and unload children across the street from the school.

AAA advises having children exit the vehicle on the “curbside” every time, so they aren’t opening the car door into an oncoming traffic lane or crossing around the front/back of the car to get to the curb.

According to the DMV, drivers are required to stop for school buses with an extended stop sign and flashing red lights no matter what direction they’re approaching from, unless there’s a median or barrier between the lanes. Drivers should continue to remain stopped until everyone is clear and the bus resumes moving, and come to a stop when the bus is loading or unloading passengers even if the lights and signs aren’t activated.

Additional Back to School Safety Resources:

School’s Open, Drive Carefully

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration - School Bus Safety

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