It’s a hopeful sign.
But also a warning sign — for drivers.
Children are heading back to school en masse this week.
And this is our annual reminder that drivers need to adapt their driving patterns and habits to accommodate them.
We all adapt to changing driving conditions, whether it be driving in the rain or snow, or driving at night, or in heavy traffic. We have to do the same for driving when the kids are in school.
Unlike the past several months, there will now be children standing near the sides of the road, many of them oblivious to the dangers.
In New York, 2.3 million kids take 50,000 buses to school every day. Depending on where you live, the chances of you encountering one at some time during your morning or afternoon commute are pretty high.
It’s up to us, the adults, to protect them from themselves.
Especially during the mornings, the kids might be harder to see. It’s not as light in the morning, and the cool fall weather often brings fog.
Adjust your speed and your attention levels to high-alert. And for god’s sake, put down the damn cell phone.
It won’t just be kids you’ll be encountering. It’ll be the buses that pick them up.
Those giant yellow objects stop frequently, and kids often cross the street to get to them, sometimes darting out from behind parked cars, utility poles and trash bins at the last second.
Follow the law that requires drivers to stop in both directions when approaching a school bus that’s stopped or about to stop. The state DMV suggests stopping at least 20 feet in front of or behind the bus.
And if you’re the impatient type who hates getting stuck behind a bus, adapt your schedule and your attitude now for the potential delays.
If you find your drive to work gets you behind a school bus that’s stopping every two seconds, maybe leave slightly earlier or slightly later to avoid it. Or find an alternative route to work.
And please pay attention to crossing guards and speed limits in school zones.
Slowing down to 10 or 15 mph around a school might seem like a giant inconvenience. But going the speed limit for a couple of hundred yards or so will only actually save you a few seconds on your commute, and the possibility of you striking a child is a lot higher when you’re going faster than a crawl.
Our top priority as a society should be to protect our children from harm.
Do you want to be the one who kills or injures a child because you were in a hurry or just weren’t paying attention?
We adults must do our part to keep them safe.
School is now open. The kids are out there.
Adjust your driving accordingly.