School days bring congestion: Yellow school buses are picking up their charges, kids on bikes are hurrying to get to school before the bell rings, harried parents are trying to drop their kids off before work.

This fall marks the return of school zone speed limits on school days and some cities have even implemented playground zones. Motorists need to take special care while driving and a simple way is to check your speed every time you drive by a place where children learn or play.

Back to school means more children walking and biking on our roads. Younger children often have limited experience with traffic and lack the skills to negotiate traffic safely. With multi-tasking parents, school bus blind spots and distracted commuters, school zone congestion is a big frustration for schools trying to keep our kids safe. If you are dropping your child off at school adhere to the specific drop-off procedures for the school year.

The following apply to all school zones:

Don’t double park; it blocks visibility for other children and vehicles Don’t load or unload children across the street from the school Carpool to reduce the number of vehicles at the school Don’t block the crosswalk when stopped at a red light or waiting to make a turn, forcing pedestrians to go around you; this could put them in the path of moving traffic In a school zone when flashers are blinking, stop and yield to pedestrians crossing the crosswalk or intersection Always stop for a school patrol officer or crossing guard holding up a stop sign Never pass a vehicle stopped for pedestrians Always use extreme caution to avoid striking pedestrians wherever they may be, no matter who has the right of way Children riding bikes can create special problems for drivers because usually they are not able to properly determine traffic conditions. It’s never more important for drivers to slow down and pay attention than when kids are present especially before and after school. Be extra vigilant in school zones and residential neighborhoods.

Some tips for driving nearing cyclists:

  • When passing a bicyclist, proceed in the same direction slowly, and leave 0.91 meters or 3 feet between your car and the cyclist
  • When turning left and a bicyclist is approaching in the opposite direction, wait for the rider to pass
  • If you’re turning right and a bicyclist is approaching from behind on the right, let the rider go through the intersection first, and always use your turn signals
  • Watch for bike riders turning in front of you without looking or signaling; children especially have a tendency to do this
  • Watch for bikes coming from driveways or behind parked cars
  • Check side mirrors before opening your door

School buses require special attention, research indicates that children who lose their lives in bus-related incidents are 4 to 7 years old, and they’re walking. They are hit by the bus, or by a motorist illegally passing a stopped bus. It is illegal to pass a school bus that is stopped to load or unload children. Be alert; children often are unpredictable, and they tend to ignore hazards and take risks. If you’re driving behind a school bus, allow a greater following distance than if you were driving behind a car. It will give you more time to stop once the lights start flashing.

As summer draws to a close, back-to-school season is in full effect. Remember to safely share the roads with school buses, pedestrians and bicyclists to keep all our kids safe.