School is in session. After an untraditional school year due to challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, students are headed back to the classroom for a fresh start. With this in mind, it is time to prepare for the inevitable – back-to-school traffic.
Students attending Milton Public Schools begin the 2021-2022 school year on September 1. The Bridgewater-Raynham School District will start classes shortly after on September 7. Later, thousands of students will return to their desks on September 9, when Boston Public Schools reopen for the year.
If you do not have a school-aged child in your life, you may think the back-to-school season is of no impact to you. This assumption is incorrect. Car accidents can be especially prevalent during this time of year due to increased traffic and young pedestrians.
Fortunately, there are simple strategies drivers, parents, guardians, and students can use to mitigate back-to-school traffic and prevent fatal collisions.
Back to School Means Increased Potential for Traffic Accidents
The yearly influx of traffic on the road beginning in late August is inescapable. But, now, as thousands of Americans return to their offices, worksites, and classrooms after over a year of remote working and learning, the roads may seem even more congested than usual.
School buses returning from their summer hiatus, parents leading the neighborhood carpool, teen drivers rushing to make it to class before the bell – you may wonder what any of this has to do with traffic accidents. The answer? More vehicles on the road create more opportunities for fatal collisions.
Specifically, three types of back-to-school-related traffic accidents are more prevalent than others.
With approximately 400,000 riders a year, school buses are one of the most popular forms of student transportation in Massachusetts. Although designed with safety in mind, school buses are still often involved in fatal traffic accidents.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), from 2010 to 2019, the United States saw 1,080 school-transportation-related crashes.
A school-transportation-related crash is a crash directly or indirectly involving a school transportation vehicle. School transportation vehicles are “a vehicle of a school bus body type or a non-school-bus vehicle functioning as a school bus, transporting children to or from school or school-related activities.”
Occupants of school transportation vehicles are most likely to be injured boarding or exiting the bus. Commonly, individuals are hit by oncoming traffic or the bus itself if standing in its blind zones.
But, in most instances, pedestrians are at a greater risk of injury in these collisions than passengers.
Collisions with Pedestrians
The reopening of classrooms for the season is notorious for increasing the number of cars on the road, but it also creates surges of foot traffic. Increased foot traffic frequently occurs in school zones and college towns as students walk to and from class. More pedestrians out and about can pose a significant safety concern.
As explained previously, often, pedestrians are at a greater risk of sustaining injuries from school-transportation-related crashes than passengers. For example, between 2010 and 2019, there were 1.6 times more fatalities among pedestrians than occupants of school transportation vehicles in school-transportation-related crashes.
School buses are not the only threat to pedestrians. Regular cars can be just as deadly, especially when traveling fast.
Children are especially at risk. The CDC reports one in five children under the age of 15 killed in traffic crashes were pedestrians in 2017. Further, 3 p.m. to 3:59 p.m. and 7 a.m. to 7:59 are the most dangerous hours of the day for school-aged pedestrians. This time frame correlates with typical school start and end times.
While some students may take the bus or have a parent drive them to school, others ride their bicycles.
Estimates show that fewer than 20% of students ride their bikes to school. Nonetheless, it is still essential to be cautious of bicyclists, especially young bicyclists, while driving.
As reported in Keches Law Group’s recent article, “Safely Sharing the Roads: How Bicyclists and Drivers Can Prevent Accidents,” in 2019, nearly 329,000 bicyclists sustained injuries. To read more, click here.
Although the daily commute during the early Fall months can be stressful, there are simple ways to manage the back-to-school traffic and prevent dangerous car accidents.
What You Can Do to Help Prevent Traffic Collisions
- Follow your child’s school’s drop-off and pick-up procedure – Schools implement strategic drop-off and pick-up guidelines to ensure the safety of all students. Make sure to follow your child’s school’s procedures. If you are new to the school, inquire before the first day so you can prepare properly.
- Manage your time effectively – When drivers are running late, they are more likely to increase their speed and make erratic maneuvers to make up for lost time. Regardless of how long you have made the same commute, allow yourself extra time to get to your destination during the back-to-school season.
- Pay great attention to school zones, crosswalks, and crossing guards – It is crucial to be careful when driving through school zones and crosswalks throughout the year, especially when school is in session.
- Always stop for school buses as they drop off and pick up students and give them adequate room – School buses have flashing stop signs for a reason. Never pass a school bus when it is letting students off or picking students up. Always provide boarding or exiting students with adequate room. When traveling close to a school bus, be even more cautious than you would be if traveling near another car.
- Look out for children at all times of the day – Children are notorious for making unpredictable movements. Always slow your speed and stay on high alert when passing areas often populated by children like school zones, parks, and playgrounds.
- Be alert for bicyclists and give them adequate room – Often, it can be frustrating for drivers to share the road with bicyclists. But, in Massachusetts, bicyclists have the same rights as motor vehicles. For this reason, drivers must be courteous while sharing the road with and passing bicyclists. For more information about preventing collisions with bicyclists, check out our recent article.
Involved in a Collision? We Can Help.
Have you, your child, or someone you know been involved in a collision due to back-to-school traffic? The experienced personal injury lawyers at Keches Law Group can help.
Contact us today with any questions or to request a free case review.
From all of us at Keches Law Group, good luck on your first day of school!