Labor Day weekend marks the end of summer to most but to school-age children and their parents, it also indicates it’s time to go back to school. Regardless if you have your own kids returning for another school year or not, as drivers, we should recognize the returning hazards and happenings that correlate with the school year beginning. These can include school bus stops, school zones, added pedestrians and possible cyclists. Here is our back to school driving tips as we encounter kids head back for another year of learning.


School Bus Stops

Today’s school buses are designed with safety in mind and are proven to be the safest form of transportation available to kids commuting to school but they are also limited to how much protection they can offer students when kids are boarding or deboarding the school bus. And that’s where driver awareness and mindfulness for kids’ safety comes into play. While some drivers choose to ignore school bus laws entirely and pass them illegally, there are many who might find themselves caught in situations where they are confused about the right way to treat a bus stop and a refresher on school bus stop laws are a good idea. Whether you have been driving for years or a brand new licensed driver, it’s important to know exactly the following rules.

The Michigan State Police website states:

School bus safety tips for drivers:

  • Prepare to stop when a slowing bus has its overhead yellow lights flashing
  • Stop at least 20 feet away for buses when red lights are flashing, unless driving in the opposite direction on a divided highway
  • Slow down in or near school and residential areas
  • Look for clues-such as safety patrols, crossing guards, bicycles, and playgrounds-that indicate children might be in the area
  • Watch for children between parked cars and other objects

School buses are like traffic signals

  • When overhead lights are flashing yellow: Prepare to stop
  • When overhead lights are flashing red: Stop
  • When hazard warning lights are flashing: Proceed with caution

School bus safety tips for students:

  • Always stay in sight of the bus driver
  • Don’t hurry off the bus; check traffic first
  • Don’t go back to the bus after exiting


School Zones

School buses out on the roads in the early morning or late afternoon isn’t the only reminder that school is now back in session. Along with them, drivers may also encounter school zones. The Michigan Vehicle Code defines a “School zone” as school property on which a school building is located and the adjacent property. A school zone extends not more than 1,000 feet from the school property line in any direction. They are often indicated by a flashing light on a reduced speed sign on area roadways with the timeframes that they are in effect from and reduces the speed by not more than 20 mph of the regularly posted speed limit. Drivers should be very aware of where school zones are located, reduce their speed and be extremely alert when traveling through them to keep children who may be walking, biking or crossing the roadway.


Pedestrians & Cyclists

While a lot of kids ride a school bus or travel to and from school with their parents, there are still many others that may be walking to school or a bus stop and others that might choose to ride their bicycle to school. Young children can spontaneous and make poor decisions on where and when to cross the road but middle and high school age kids can easily become distracted while using their phones. In fact, a recent study showed that 20% of high school students admitted to crossing the street while being distracted by their phones! Despite what age of the kids you may encounter, drivers should always be cautious and expect the unexpected, particularly in residential areas where kids are more likely to be found, while passing pedestrians on the road or sidewalks, and never block crosswalks when stopping at red lights and stop signs.

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