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As the end of summer comes around and a significant number of inexperienced drivers head out onto the roads to go to school, it becomes even more important than ever to drive defensively in order to protect yourself from accidents. In addition, with school zones now becoming active again at the beginnings and ends of the day, it is crucial to use caution when driving in areas that could be full of pedestrians. Considering the potential risks of injury presented by driving on a busy road, we have come up with a list of 10 important safe driving tips to consider when driving around schools in the coming school year.
1. Know the riskiest times to be on the road
Although each city and community may have a slight variation in the most hectic times to be on the road, drivers must recognize the increased risk of accidents at specific points in the day due to traffic patterns. For example, Consumer Affairs states that, [Avvo and the NHTSA's data] found that the risk of an accident still increases during rush hour (from 4 p.m. to 7.pm) due to increased traffic, tension among commuters, and an increase in drivers heading home from 'happy hour.'" While these differences may be negligible for those living in more sparsely populated areas, motorists in busy cities who may find themselves in tricky traffic situations should be extra alert at these times, especially when driving through school zones where a mix of drivers returning home from work and children walking home from school has to be taken into account.
2. Always use turn signals, especially when switching lanes
Especially when approaching crosswalks and areas where pedestrians may be traversing the road, it is important to let the people around you know where you intend to go. If another driver is planning on turning into the same lane or is going at a faster speed than you are, a lack of communication between motorists could result in a collision (or even worse, an accident involving a pedestrian). Although many experienced drivers fail to signal when planning to turn or shift lanes, they are putting the cars and people around them at higher risk by failing to make their intentions clear. Just as you would want as much information about the vehicles around you as possible, be sure not to keep those around you guessing about where you're headed!
3. Check your blind spots when switching lanes
Even in cars designed to offer their drivers the greatest degree of 360 visibility, there are bound to be places around the vehicle where it is impossible to see the driver's surroundings. Take a quick look over your shoulder at the lane you are switching to as a second check for another car or pedestrian. This driving tip takes virtually no effort but could prevent a serious accident, so be sure to look around before gliding into the next lane!
4. Don't rely on mirrors alone - double check behind you for pedestrians in parking lots
Although it can be tempting to simply look through your side or rearview mirrors when pulling out of a parking spot, this will NOT guarantee that there is no one driving or walking behind you from either side. Busy parking lots can cause both drivers and pedestrians to be more daring and try to go behind cars that are attempting to leave their spot. Crowded lots can be very stressful, but many potential accidents can be avoided by not trusting your mirrors and actually looking around at your surroundings. Be 100% sure that nothing is behind your car before proceeding, and always back out slowly as to avoid any aggressive parkers!
5. Drive below the speed limit in rough weather conditions
Traveling in the rain or snow can be very unpleasant, as it can add both stress and aggravating traffic to a driver's journey. Even so, speeding up to finish the drive is NEVER the answer when conditions get tough. Going too quickly through large puddles can cause a car to hydroplane. Patches of ice may put the car into an out-of-control skid, at which point the driver is at serious risk of harming those walking through the school zone. In addition, rain and snow can decrease visibility, leaving less time to react when pedestrians or vehicles appear in your lane of travel. Err on the side of caution when you can't fully see what lies ahead, and be ready to slow down if necessary.
6. NEVER drive distracted!
This one goes without saying, but it is so important that we are going to say it anyway: looking at your phone or anything except the road while driving is extraordinarily dangerous, and is the cause of many otherwise avoidable accidents. One good way to ensure that your attention won't be diverted by a phone notification is to put it on "do not disturb" or even airplane mode while you are behind the wheel. That text message can wait until you have arrived safely at your destination! Especially considering the above-average number of pedestrians in school zones, it is essential that drivers pay attention to the road at all times and are able to react as quickly as possible.
7. Respect the speed limit and the crosswalk!
While it is important to drive within the posted speed limit at all times, the slower limit (often 10-20 MPH) imposed in school zones is there for a very specific reason: there are likely to be a large number of children walking around the area in the morning and late afternoon, which means that extra care is needed in these areas. In addition to driving slowly, drivers in a school zone MUST give pedestrians the right of way when approaching a crosswalk. Besides, waving pedestrians across the street instead of blowing through the crosswalk first is a courtesy that we all hope will be extended to us, so setting a good example is never a bad thing!
8. Don't push the limits to make traffic lights
Especially on the mornings when you are late to work and every missed light begins to count, it can be very tempting to race the traffic light as it turns from yellow to red. But, however tempting it may be, it should not be done! Driving through a new red light can be extraordinarily dangerous not only for yourself and other drivers but for pedestrians who may already be in the crosswalk on the way to school. Considering the potentially dire consequences of running a red light (along with the chance of getting a costly ticket), the better choice is always to slow down and stop.
9. Find your serenity now - don't be a road rager!
As easy as it may be to lay on the horn and get frustrated with the mistakes of the drivers around you, this serves no practical purpose and in fact may even be counterproductive of your ability to drive well. It is frustrating when another car almost causes an accident due to distracted driving or a lack of consideration for other motorists, but the safest move is always to drive defensively and remain calm regardless of how rude, clueless, or aggressive people may be in traffic. Once again, the most important consideration in a school zone is those who are walking around the area, and your attention should be on them - not on the person who just cut you off.
10. Don't assume that other motorists are good drivers
After reading through this list and internalizing our suggestions, you will hopefully be ready to hit the road as an alert, defensive driver that prioritizes your own safety and that of pedestrians over all else. Unfortunately, we live in a world where many drivers on the road are not interested in taking precautions but rather in getting to their destination as fast as possible. Don't give people the benefit of the doubt when reckless driving could put your life and the lives of those around you at risk; be the driver that makes the streets a little safer, but know that others may not extend the same courtesy to you!
Knowing how to minimize your risk on the road can save lives. As the roads get busier and the summer winds down, be careful behind the wheel and remember to drive extra defensively in school areas. If you or a loved one are injured in a car- related accident and are looking for experienced attorneys to get you the compensation you deserve, call Nurenberg Paris today for a free consultation and to discuss how we can help.
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