Do you remember the days when your mom and dad would walk into your room and say, “Wake up! It’s time to get ready for school.” It is also time for back to school safety.
The CHP reminds all drivers not to block the crosswalk when stopped at a red light or waiting to make a turn. Blocking the crosswalk forces pedestrians to guess what you are about to do. Or it makes them go around your vehicle and puts them in a dangerous situation. In a school zone when warning flashers are blinking, you must stop to yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a marked crosswalk or at an intersection with no marked crosswalk. Always stop when directed to do so by a school patrol sign, school patrol officer or designated crossing guard.
Children are the least predictable pedestrians and the most difficult to see. Take extra care to look out for children not only in school zones, but also in residential areas, playgrounds, and parks. Remember, little people can appear out of nowhere. Pedestrians have the right-of-way at all intersections; however, drivers are obligated to exercise great care and extreme caution around intersections.
When driving through a school zone always be aware of your surroundings. Slow down! Whether children are starting the school day in the early morning or rushing to leave school in the afternoon, their presence means drivers must be careful. When driving near a school, you have to avoid large numbers of children walking to and from campus, school buses and their parents’ cars. To help keep these children safe, school zones are given special consideration in the Vehicle Code. Drivers are required by law to be alert for special traffic signs and road markings indicating a school zone. Within a school zone, extra caution is required and there are special speed limits.
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Children riding bicycles create special problems for drivers because they are not capable of proper judgment in determining traffic conditions. When passing a bicyclist proceeding in the same direction, do so slowly and leave at least 3 feet of distance between your vehicle and the bicycle. Maintain this clearance until you have safely passed the bicycle.
The most common causes of collisions are drivers turning left in front of an oncoming bicycle, or turning right into the path of a bicyclist. Watch for bicycle riders turning in front of you without looking or signaling. Take extra precautions in school zones and neighborhood areas. Children, as well as adults, should always wear the proper protective gear while riding a bicycle.
Be courteous to our school bus drivers and stop when the red lights are flashing. I can’t count the number of times I have been driving in my personal vehicle and see vehicles blow right past the red lights of a school bus. Come on everyone, do the right thing, be patient, be courteous, and remember our kids are getting on and off these school buses. Slow down when you see the amber lights and stop when the red lights flash.
California Highway Patrol officer Traci Gallian’s “On Duty” column publishes bimonthly. She can be reached at TAGallian@chp.ca.gov.