Practice Extra Vigilance to Keep Children Safe

As the song goes, “School days! School days! Dear old golden rule days!” It’s back to school time, so let’s brush up on some of the golden rules of the road to keep our kids safe as they travel to and from school.

What the Law Says

Reduce your speed in school zones.

In Massachusetts, the speed limit in all school zones is 20 mph. It’s also illegal to pass other motorists, and pedestrians in crosswalks always have the right-of-way. Kids can be tiny and fast, and (as most parents can attest) are often unaware of their surroundings, so the responsibility lies with drivers to pay attention.

Stop for school buses.

State law requires that all drivers in Massachusetts stop at least 100 feet away when a school bus stops to pick up or drop off children. Remember too that drivers in both directions must stop. The only exception is on divided highways with a barrier, in which case only the drivers going in the same direction as the bus must stop.

You can tell that a bus or other school transport vehicle with a “school bus” sign is stopped to pick up or drop off children when its flashing red lights are on. Yellow school buses also have stop signs that fold out of the driver’s side. This means you must stop and remain stopped until the driver turns the flashers off and retracts the stop sign. You may pass a school bus that is stopped without flashing lights or an extended stop sign if it is safe to do so.

Store your cell phone.

In Massachusetts, it is illegal, and dangerous, to text while driving, including writing, reading or sending text messages, even while stopped in traffic or at a stoplight. It is also illegal for drivers under age 18 to talk on their cell phones while driving.

Drivers ages 18 and above may talk on their phones if at least one hand remains on the wheel and doing so does not interfere with driving. This means that if you are talking on your phone and get into an accident, you will likely be cited for distracted driving (or even sued).

What Common Sense Dictates

While the state enforces the laws above, which can leave you with some hefty fines, it’s important to also exercise common sense, such as:

  • Allow yourself extra time. If your commute takes you through school zones or bus routes, leave the house earlier when school is in session. Accidents are more likely to happen when you are rushing.
  • Drop off and pick up your children in designated areas at school, not in the middle of the street or other places that put them at risk.
  • Be alert outside school zones for children at bus stops and walking or biking to school.
  • Teach your children about road safety, including how to safely cross streets at crosswalks.
  • Keep an eye out for crossing guards wearing reflective vests and holding stop signs. Many towns have crossing guards to help children safely cross intersections around schools, even outside school zones.
  • Focus on driving. Beyond cell phone use, refrain from any activity that takes your attention away from the road, such as rooting through backpacks, signing last-minute forms or permission slips, or even eating.

We wish everyone a safe and successful return to school!