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School is back in session in Ohio, and that means school zones are active in the mornings and afternoons. Whether you drive through school zones during your daily commute or only occasionally, it’s important to know how to drive through them to keep pedestrians and other drivers safe.
The next time you’re driving through a school zone, follow these tips to do your part in keeping yourself and those around you out of harm’s way.
The most important thing you can do to contribute to school zone safety is to reduce your speed. During the posted hours, when children arrive or leave school, the speed limit is 20 mph.
Note that a school zone sign doesn’t have to be flashing or even have hours posted for the 20 mph speed limit to be enforced by police. Because some school zones are active even during recess hours, it’s important to be prepared to slow down to 20 mph or below when you approach a school zone and students may be present, whether it’s early in the morning, the middle of the day, or in the afternoon.
Distracted driving is incredibly dangerous no matter where you are on the road. But when pedestrians—particularly children—are present, it can be even more dangerous. Texting while driving in Ohio is already illegal, but to do your part to keep people safe in school zones, you should go further than that in keeping your mind focused on the task at hand.
That means avoiding phone calls while driving, even when using your phone or vehicle’s hands-free function. It also means avoiding using your vehicle’s infotainment system, reaching for items in your glovebox or passenger seat, and grooming/looking at yourself in the mirror. Keeping your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel could help you avoid a crash and even save lives.
Crossing guards are typically either police officers or people that city governments hire to direct traffic in school zones. Both types of crossing guards are authorized by law to direct traffic, and drivers are required to obey their commands when told to stop and allow pedestrians to cross the road.
Keep in mind that crossing guards’ commands supersede all other traffic flow measures, including typical right-of-way customs and lights. That means that if you arrive at a stop sign first, you don’t automatically have the right-of-way. You also aren’t automatically clear to enter an intersection if you get a green light when there is a crossing guard present. Instead, wait for the crossing guard to wave you through if they initially stopped you.
Pedestrians, including students, their parents, teachers, and others crossing at school zones have the right-of-way when they get “walk” signals at crosswalks or when crossing guards wave them through. It’s important to be prepared to stop not only for signals from lights or crossing guards but also for students who may enter the road when they’re not supposed to.
Children may enter the road at any time and for any reason, especially when heading to and from school. They may cross the road not realizing vehicles are approaching, or they may be too young to understand the danger of walking into traffic. By being on high alert and ready to stop, you can help reduce your chances of striking a pedestrian, especially a child.
School zones aren’t just for children who get to school on foot or who cross the street from nearby parking lots. They’re also used to provide safe locations for buses to pick up and drop off students. When buses stop to load and unload, bus drivers will usually deploy retractable stop signs letting drivers behind them know what’s happening.
When a bus is stopped and loading or unloading, even if you’re not in a school zone, you’re forbidden from passing it. That’s because students may be walking into the street from both sides of the bus, and you may be unable to see them from your vantage point. Wait for all children to board or exit the bus, the stop sign to retract, and the bus to begin moving before you begin moving.
Traffic laws in school zones are strictly enforced, but that doesn’t mean they’re crash-free zones. Unfortunately, many drivers fail to notice or observe reduced speed limits, crossing guards’ directions, and crosswalks, putting themselves and others in significant danger in school zones.
These problems extend beyond school zones and apply to roads throughout Ohio. When negligent drivers injure innocent people, it’s our job to hold them liable for the damages they cause. If you or someone you love were hurt in a crash in a school zone or anywhere else in our state, contact our Ohio auto accident lawyers for a free consultation.
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