An average of 14 children die each year in school transportation related crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Safety should be a top priority for all drivers since area schools are back in session.
But do you know the rules of the road?
Here’s a refresher course on school safety laws for D.C., Maryland and Virginia Drivers.
*In all 50 states it is illegal to pass a stopped school bus loading or unloading children. The only exception to this rule is when you are traveling on a divided roadway.
*Maryland, D.C. and Virginia law states that, you can pass a stopped school bus on the opposite side of the road. However, all traffic behind a school bus (on the same side of the road) must always stop.
*The 10 feet surrounding a school bus is considered the most dangerous area for children. Make sure you’re giving more than the minimum amount of space. In the District commuters are required to give at least 15 feet. Maryland law says drivers must give 20 feet.
*Always stay alert when you encounter a school bus. Children can be unpredictable. Usually they’re entering or exiting the school bus in a place where they feel safe. They may be distracted or unaware of dangerous situations.
*School buses use yellow flashing lights to communicate with drivers that they are about to stop. A red flashing light and an extended arm signal indicates the bus is stopping and unloading or loading children.
*Fines for speeding in school zones can be hefty and the laws are strict. If you get a ticket in a school zone police automatically issue 3 points on your license. If you’re going 20 mph over the posted speed limit it carries a 6 point citation and a charge for reckless driving. Breaking these rules can even cause you to lose your license for up to six months.
*If you are approaching a school zone and see flashing lights or signals, 25 mph is the maximum speed limit you should be traveling. Otherwise, drivers may travel at the posted speed limit.
*Keep in mind the majority of crashes involving children and school buses occur in the afternoon, between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. Use extra precaution not only in the morning, but in the afternoon commute as well.