Back to School Safety Tips to Keep You and Everyone Else Safe on the Road

School is back in session and that means more cars and buses on the roads early in the morning, making your commute even longer and more stressful. And if your commute is based on local roads as opposed to highways you may find yourself contending with crossing guards and kids shuffling across the street. With that in mind here are some driving safety tips to keep everyone safe.

School Bus Stops

When it comes to school bus stops, all states require that you stop for a school bus when it’s loading or unloading to let children safely cross the street to get to and from the bus. Most states want you as far back as 20-30 feet away from the bus when the lights are flashing red on either side of the road. To find your state’s law regarding school bus stops click here.

School Zones

Always be mindful of those yellow school zone signs. Whether they light up or just indicate a specific time frame, go the speed limit indicated on the sign. You never know if there is an officer waiting for speeders or if a child may run into the middle of the road.

Backing Up

Just because you may have a back up camera on your car does not mean it will always pick up that someone is behind you. Always check around you and your blind spots when reversing your car near where children may be. Follow that advice at home as well, as you may not see your own kids in the driveway. It happens way more than you’d think.

Pedestrians

Pedestrians often have a cavalier attitude when it comes crossing the street, often think they are invincible and expect you to stop. This is even truer of children. With children, consequences are learned and not assumed. They assume you will always stop for them. They assume your car will be able to stop in time if they dart in front of you. As a driver, you should know you can’t predict behavior but you can always be mindful of your own.

Teen Drivers

All year long there are new teen drivers on the road. They could very well be stuck in morning traffic right along with you. Be mindful of the experience level of others and be courteous. Remember new drivers are less used to stressful situations behind the wheel and may react differently. Teen drivers are more prone to take chances so remain cautious in school zones as well.

Plan ahead

Expect longer delays with school back in session so plan your route to avoid delays if possible and either leave a few minutes earlier than you normally would or if you have the luxury, leave after the kids are in school. A few minutes could make the difference between a short commute or sitting in traffic for an eternity! If you find yourself stuck on the road due to cars driving into schools and crossing guards stopping you regularly for pedestrians, do not get frustrated.  Most bosses understand traffic happens and as long as you’re smart enough to plan your route properly, it won’t be a regular occurrence.

Be safe!

CDC Says Further Limits On Teen Driving At Night Will Save Lives

A new study by the Center for Disease Control found just over 30% of fatal car wrecks from 2009-2014 involving teen drivers [aged 16-17] occurred between 9 PM and 6AM. A whopping 57% of those accidents occurred BEFORE Midnight. This calls into the question the practice of many states which while they do limit teen night-time driving, do so only AFTER Midnight.

Now, some may go “Well that’s peak driving time, after school, weeknights and weekends”. That’s true to a point but let’s examine the idea further: kids who have been up since 6 AM, in school all day, are having most of their fatal car crashes while they’ve been up and about in the range of 15-18 hours already. There have been countless studies on teens needing more sleep, how their brains haven’t reach maturity yet, and to boot these kids are relatively inexperienced drivers. Putting those factors together is a dangerous combination.

49 of 50 states in the U.S. have restrictions on teen nighttime driving [Vermont, you’re on the way wrong side of this issue]. However, only 23 of those states actually limit driving before midnight. Driving at night puts one at elevated risk for a crash regardless of age but more the young, inexperienced driver who is less adept to challenges they may find on the road. Data in the study provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [NHTSA] found 93% of the nearly three and half billion teen night driving trips ended before midnight based on their 2009 data.

The unfortunate and obvious observation to all this is, we’re letting our children drive when they’re most vulnerable. So what can be done? For one, night-time driving needs to become a larger requirement of Drivers Ed Behind-the-Wheel training. Many states require a much higher percentage of daytime practice driving than at night. If we’re going to keep restrictions where they are now, then DMVs have a responsibility to update their standards to include many more hours of nighttime practice driving a parent or licensed adult. This is a must if we are to keep thing as we are.

Others will say restrictions should begin even earlier; that we should limit our teens at so they can’t drive past dark. Dusk can be an incredibly dangerous time as well, with varying visibility levels and the sun is low enough that it can be blinding. Again, that leads to another problem of sort of coddling kids from preventing them from driving at night at all.  You then end up with night driving as almost a totally foreign environment when drivers do move past a night-time driving restriction once they get older. Not a good answer either.

I advocate more of a middle of the road approach to this. Night Driving Restrictions should be moved down to around 9-10 PM. Kids shouldn’t be out later in a car than you would’ve wanted them running or biking around the neighborhood at night. Most of the same fears we have for our children are still a valid concern anyway, a car as the means of transportation doesn’t take away those worries. It just might be adding to it.

For the night driving restrictions in your state, see this cool map from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety:

nighttimecutoffs

 

And again, for a great online Teen Drivers Ed course with fantastic material on night driving, I recommend DriversEd.com
DriversEd.com-The leading provider of online drivers education.  Ensuring you’ll get your permit the first time!

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People Are Crashing Their Cars Because of Pikachu and Jigglypuff

pikachu

Nintendo’s Pokémon Go is sweeping the nation, and the world at large. I’ve seen kids clumped in town squares having pizza parties as they use their smartphones to play the game, trying to find Pokémon characters out in the real world. There’s good intentions there, a game that makes kids go outside. It was nice, though the sheer number of people walking around glued to their phones as they played was sort of surreal even by the standards of the world we live in today. Apple has reported, according to an article over at TechCrunch, that Pokémon Go is its most downloaded app in its first week of release ever.

All that said, I’m hearing some pretty concerning things associated with the game as well. Some folks in Elk Grove, CA were lured into a serious situation when they tried to meet up with other fans and were instead robbed at gunpoint. Two young men in Encinitas fell off a cliff some 80 feet to the beach below trying to catch Pokémon on their phone. The one that really caught my attention happened in Baltimore; a young man and his friends sideswiped a police car while playing Pokémon Go.

Then I read about a Pokémon Go crash in Fall City, WA; then one in Auburn, NY; another across the border in Canada’s Quebec City. As the popularity of this app continues to rise to even greater heights, it may actually become something of a regular cause of accidents. All of this, of course, goes back a regular topic on this blog: distracted driving.

Distracted Driving takes many forms.  Sometimes it’s a bad mood. You could be paying more attention to one of your passengers than the road. It can be something as insignificant as eating or drinking, lighting up a cigarette or vaping. You might be trying to answer a text message [sending the average text will take your eyes off the road for about 5 seconds, which is just long enough for something to go wrong.]

Traffic safety experts actually consider there to be three types of distractions drivers can get caught up in: the manual, the visual, and the cognitive. A manual distraction is when you physically do something [grabbing your phone out of your purse] that takes away your attention. A visual distraction is when something else comes into view that takes your eyes off the road [a new text appears on your phone]. A cognitive distraction is anything that causes your mind to focus on something else rather than driving [thinking about a text you received]. Now with Pokémon Go, you have all three of those distractions combined just like active texting but in a new way that requires greater concentration and feeds into the competitive response of gaming. That’s what makes it more even more dangerous.

Now if you’re a person who thinks it’s important enough to catch Meowth or Psyduck that you would risk yourself, your passengers, people outside, or even your or someone else’s car, well maybe I can’t help you. However, if you’re a fairly rational person only occasionally just prone to poor judgment, please keep safety in mind. Yes, you “gotta catch em all!” but not behind the wheel. If you’re a pedestrian, look both ways when you cross the street, don’t stare at your phone, the person pulling up to the crosswalk in their car might be on the precipice of finding Charmander and not stop in time.

Don’t Pokémon Go and Drive!

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