With another school year up and running, it's time to do some homework.
The subject: Driving 101, with an emphasis on watching out for children in and around school and bus zones.
The National Highway Safety Administration recently updated its traffic safety facts on school-transportation-related crashes. From 2007 to 2016, there were 320,874 fatal motor vehicle traffic crashes. Of those crashes, 1,147 — 0.4 percent — were classified as school- transportation-related. Thirty-eight percent of these involved a school aged pedestrian being struck by a passenger car, light truck or van, large truck or a motorcycle.
"School buses are the safest means of transportation for getting to and from school and keep an estimated 17.3 million cars off the roads every year," noted safety administration officials. "Even so, drivers need to be careful when traveling near school buses or school zones. Motorists need to be alert and to stop for a school bus when flashing lights are illuminated."
The National highway Traffic Safety Administration offers these suggestions to motorists to help keep kids safe around schools and school buses:
• When backing out of a driveway or leaving a garage, watch out for children walking or bicycling to school.
• When driving in neighborhoods with school zones, watch out for young people who may be thinking about getting to school, but may not be thinking of getting there safely.
• Slow down. Watch for children walking in the street, especially if there are no sidewalks in the neighborhood.
• Watch for children playing and congregating near bus stops.
• Be alert. Children arriving late for the bus may dart into the street without looking for traffic.
• Learn and obey the school bus laws in your state, as well as the "flashing signal light system" that school bus drivers use to alert motorists of pending actions:
• Yellow flashing lights indicate the bus is preparing to stop to load or unload children. Motorists should slow down and prepare to stop their vehicles.
• Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate the bus has stopped and children are getting on or off. Motorists must stop their cars and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop-arm is withdrawn, and the bus begins moving before they can start driving again.
The local police and sheriff blotter often contain reports of drivers who disobey school bus stop-arms by driving around them. There are also reports of drivers who fail to yield to children, even if they are in a crosswalk. Just last Thursday, a woman was in the middle of a crosswalk at Fifth Avenue and Irving Street with children from her daycare when a driver tried to go through the intersection.
This school year, let's all ace Driving 101 by paying close attention to the roads, school buses and children. This is a test with a lot more riding on it than a passing grade.