Summer’s over and the new school year is well underway. With school buses and backpacked children crowding the streets each morning and afternoon, Chicago drivers must remember to stay particularly alert when driving near school zones and school buses. According to a chilling Chicago Tribune article in 2013, about half of all kids hit by cars in the Chicago area are near a school.
Here are six things you can do to keep our school kids from being hit by a car:
- Pay attention to signs indicating you’re approaching a school zone. Sometimes drivers aren’t paying attention and fail to recognize when they’ve entered a school zone. In Illinois, school zones are indicated either by the 5-sided yellow sign with two children walking featured on it, or a sign speed limit sign with “School” written at the top in a band of yellow.
- Slow down to 20 mph. By law, you must go 20 mph in a school zone when school is in session or children are present. Here’s why: not only does going slower give you more time to react and avoid an accident, but according to the National Safe Kids Campaign, a child hit by a car at 30 mph is 8 times more likely to die than one hit at 20 mph or less. The penalty for speeding in a school zone is $200 for a first offense;$300 for a second offense. Also, Chicago is one of the few cities in the country to have speeding camera set up around school zones to help enforce the law.
- Never pass a child, adult or school bus in a school zone. All Illinois school zones are ‘no passing’ zones. This means that when you are in a school zone, all children and adults within the crosswalk have the right-of-way. As soon as you approach a school zone, be prepared to stop at the crosswalk.
- Prepare to stop when yellow lights are flashing on school bus. Yellow lights flashing on a school bus means that the driver is preparing to stop and unload children. When you see flashing yellow lights, drive with caution and be ready to stop.
- Stop for red flashing lights on a school bus. Red flashing lights on a bus means that the bus is stopped and unloading/loading passengers. When these are flashing, you must stop driving – regardless of which direction you’re heading – until either the bus resumes motion or the red lights are turned off. Equally, you must stop for an extended stop sign. The first- offense penalty for illegally passing an Illinois school bus is a minimum fine of $150 and a 3-month suspension of your drivers license.
- Stay alert when you see child pedestrians. Remember that most children do not behave like adults. Children are unpredictable, easily distracted and often unable to judge the distance and speed of a moving vehicle. They may walk outside of the crosswalk, dart from between parked cars, or fail to look both ways before crossing a street. And on top of all this, they’re harder to see!
So, take every precaution and drive cautiously when children are present. It may take a bit longer to get where you’re going, but those few extra minutes are more than worth the life and health of a child. If you or you child have been injured in a pedestrian accident place contact the Chicago pedestrian accident attorneys at Willens & Baez.
photo credit: Some rights reserved by OliBac