School Zone Safety Takes on New Meaning This Year

As COVID-19 keeps kids out of school buildings, drivers need to be especially vigilant

BOISE – School is starting up across the Gem State over the next few weeks, but with more kids studying online due to COVID-19 restrictions, AAA is asking Idaho drivers to rethink the definition of “school zone” and act accordingly.

“Some students will alternate between spending time at the school building and in a remote environment at home, while others will be entirely dedicated to online learning,” says Matthew Conde, public affairs director for AAA Idaho.  “If school isn’t happening in the usual places, it’s happening somewhere else, so drivers are going to have to be especially careful, particularly as they make their way through residential neighborhoods.”

Every year, a new group of inexperienced young students learns the ins and outs of school zone safety for the first time.  But no student has ever experienced a global pandemic before, so school kids, parents, teachers, and drivers will need to team up to avoid pedestrian injuries and fatalities.

School zone safety tips

  • Be on your best behavior in residential neighborhoods. Never speed or drive distracted where children are present, including neighborhoods and school zones.  If possible, take a route that avoids residential areas and school zones altogether.

“Students who are taking classes at home may have recess on a different schedule,” Conde said.  “Assume that children are present in yards and residential streets, even if you can’t see them.”

  • Teach your kids the rules of the road. Remind them never to dart out into the street, including between cars, and to use crosswalks wherever possible.  Parents should also make sure that hoods, hats, and headphones don’t prevent their children from seeing or hearing vehicles as they cross the street, even in a crosswalk.  Children should wear bright or reflective items of clothing if they’ll be walking in the dark.
  • Follow the school zone basics. Strictly observe signs, flashing lights, and signals from crossing guards.  It’s dangerous and illegal to overtake a stopped bus with flashing lights.
  • Try the “walking school bus.” If your children routinely walk to school, coordinate a “walking school bus” with other parents to have a large group of the neighborhood kids walk to school together.  The larger group size will help alert motorists to the presence of schoolchildren, and parents can take turns ‘driving the bus,’ with an adult or two walking with the group each day.  Parents should wear bright clothing to be even more conspicuous.

“No one can be completely prepared for the sudden changes that may take place during the school year,” Conde said.  “But by having a good safety plan, we can make school zones safe – wherever they may be found this year.”