Pennsylvania has many large school districts with thousands of students enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade. Many of the most populous schools are located in the Greater Philadelphia area.
With lots of schools and even more school children attending them, it is very important to drive safely whenever near a school or a school bus. In addition, school zones require you to slow down during certain times of the day.
The need for students to travel to and from school ensures the sidewalks and roadways are especially busy near schools at the start and end of each school day. The following could help you to drive safely while near a school or school bus. It also could help to save lives by preventing a car accident.
Potential Dangers When Driving Near Schools
You likely can recall the general chaos that goes with the start and finish of the school day. Potentially hundreds of young children are entering the building for the day or leaving in the afternoon when the school day has concluded.
Many high school students drive to school. Many others get rides from parents or guardians. And still more climb aboard the school buses to get to and from school.
If you rode a bus to school, you have an idea of how many buses might be picking up or dropping off pupils at local schools. You also have a good idea of how many children each bus is capable of carrying.
Those buses, student drivers, and parents picking up or dropping off their children at school create a potentially hectic situation. The local roads could be choked with buses and other vehicles. Children on bicycles, skateboards, and walking could suddenly appear from between parked vehicles.
The wait at stop signs and red lights could be especially long and frustrating. Also, crossing guards need you to stop so that children safely can cross the street.
The potential for an accident with another vehicle or with a pedestrian is higher during the peak times of school transportation activities. The greater risk of a personal injury accident makes it especially important to drive safely when near schools and especially while in designated school zones.
Pennsylvania Driving Laws in School Zones
Pennsylvania law very clearly explains what you can and cannot do while driving through a school zone. If you do not drive as the law requires, you could be ticketed and fined.
Traffic control devices indicate the beginning and end of designated school zones. Those devices often are a combination of traffic lights and road signs that clearly indicate that you are in a school zone.
While you are driving through a school zone, the speed limit is 15 mph. Violating the 15 mph speed limit could net a fine of no more than $500 if you exceed the speed limit by more than 11 mph.
Exceeding the 15 mph limit by up to 5 mph earns a fine of $35. Another two dollars per mph is added to the fine until driving more than 26 mph in a school zone. Then the larger fine could be levied.
The school zones are active only during certain times of the day and only on weekdays. Traffic controls should list the times that the school zones are active.
Abiding by the state’s laws governing active school zones is a great way to drive safely while near schools.
How to Mitigate Driving Dangers Near Schools
You should have a good idea of what schools are near where you live and work. You also should have a good idea of when one or more schools are especially busy.
If you can avoid driving in congested school zones when they are busiest, that is the best way to reduce the potential for an accident occurring. You might travel through a busy school zone or happen upon a congested school area while running errands.
Whenever you are near a school, you should abide by the posted speed limits and various traffic controls. If the school zone is in effect, you have to slow down to 15 mph and stay there until you exit the zone.
The cellphone should stay off, and your eyes need to scan the road, shoulders, and sidewalks to identify any students or vehicles that might enter the roadway. You need to be cautious to follow other vehicles at a safe distance.
If a vehicle is stopped, it is best to assume a small child might be crossing the street. Passing a stopped vehicle is particularly dangerous near schools during peak hours of traffic and pedestrian activity.
You also need to keep an eye out for school crossing guards and especially when children are present. A crossing guard might enter the street or intersection with the proper uniform and a sign telling you to stop.
Most crossing guards will be posted at intersections and designated crosswalks. Their job is to ensure traffic is stopped and stays stopped while children cross the road.
Most will try to time the crossings to coincide with traffic lights. But that might not always be possible. Whenever a crossing guard enters the roadway with the stop sign displayed, you need to come to a safe stop.
Odds are the crossing guard will be in a school zone, so you should not be driving faster than 15 mph. Also, you must come to a full stop without crossing a white stop stripe or entering the crosswalk.
State Law for Stopped School Buses
Pennsylvania closely regulates how drivers react to stopped school buses that are picking up or dropping off passengers. When a school bus pulls over, turns on its red lights, and the stop arm extends out, you have to stop at least 10 feet away from it.
You must stop for a school bus whether you are following it or traveling in the opposite direction. If the bus is stopped at an intersection, all traffic lanes must stay stopped while the red lights are on and the stop arm is extended.
The school bus will remain stopped until all students have either exited and crossed the road safely or have found seats on the bus. You must remain stopped in your vehicle until the bus driver retracts the stop arm and turns off the red flashing lights.
It is important to remember that school buses pick up passengers in the morning and drop them off in the afternoon. If it is afternoon when you encounter a stopped bus, there is a greater potential for one or more students crossing the street in front of the bus. You must remain stopped until the passengers safely have crossed the street.
Many bus drivers will pull to the side and allow vehicles to pass after making a stop. However, the bus drivers are not obligated to do so. It is more of a courtesy and common sense that enables smoother traffic flow.
It also stops vehicles from stacking up behind a school bus that is in the middle of its rounds. The fewer vehicles that stack up behind a bus, the safer it is to continue picking up or dropping off students.
If you pass a bus while it is stopped with its lights on or come too close to it, you could be ticketed. Pennsylvania levies a $250 fine for illegally passing a school bus or otherwise endangering it and its passengers.
The offense would add five points to your driving record. You also would face a 60-day license suspension.
Philadelphia Car Accident Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC, Uphold the Rights of Clients
If you survived a car accident in a school zone or other location, the Philadelphia car accident lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC, can help you to hold liable parties accountable. Our experienced legal team will protect your rights to secure the compensation for which you are entitled. Call us today at 215-569-4888 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Abington, and Media, Pennsylvania; Wilmington, Delaware; and Haddonfield, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout the surrounding areas.