Editorial: Drivers beware of school trafficFunding for schools, teachers’ compensation and aging educational facilities have all been topics for discussion, but how about safety when people travel to and from school?
Funding for schools, teachers’ compensation and aging educational facilities have all been topics for discussion, but how about safety when people travel to and from school?
Drivers must be more vigilant when school’s in session, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, Division of State Patrol. They need to watch for children and teens walking, biking or riding buses and follow laws designed to protect them.
Drivers should expect the unexpected because students, especially young children, aren’t always aware of the traffic around them. They need to pay attention and slow down when approaching students who are walking or riding bikes. They also need to be particularly cautious around school buses that are loading or unloading passengers.
Wisconsin law requires drivers to stop a minimum of 20 feet from a stopped school bus with its red warning lights flashing. Drivers must stop whether the bus is on their side of the road, on the opposite side of the road or at an intersection they’re approaching. However, drivers aren’t required to stop for a school bus if they’re traveling in the opposite direction on the other side of a divided roadway separated by a median or other physical barrier.
When they’re passed illegally, school bus drivers are authorized to report the violator to a law enforcement agency and a citation may be issued. The owner of the vehicle, who might not be the offending driver, will then be responsible for paying the citation.
A citation for failure of a vehicle to stop for a school bus costs $326.50 with four demerit points. If reported by a school bus driver, the vehicle owner’s liability for the illegal passing of a bus costs $326.50 with no demerit points.
State law requires drivers to yield to pedestrians. These include ones who have started crossing an intersection or crosswalk on a walk signal or on a green light if there’s no walk signal or ones who are crossing the road within a marked or unmarked crosswalk at an intersection when there are no traffic lights or control signals. Yielding also applies when a vehicle is crossing a sidewalk or entering an alley or driveway.
Additionally, drivers may not illegally overtake and pass any vehicle that has stopped for pedestrians at an intersection or crosswalk. Drivers who fail to yield the right of way to pedestrians who are legally crossing roadways may be issued citations that cost approximately $175 to $232 (depending on the type of violation) along with four demerit points assessed on their license. A citation for passing a vehicle that is stopped for pedestrians costs $326 with three demerit points.
When drivers are passing bicycles traveling in the same direction, they must leave a safe distance of no less than three feet of clearance and must maintain that clearance until they have safely passed the bicycle. A violation of the state law requiring drivers to overtake and pass bicyclists safely costs a total of $200.50 with three demerit points.
For 16-to-20-year-olds, nearly one in every three deaths is caused by a traffic crash, the National Safety Council reports. In fact, collisions are the number one cause of teen death.
So letting teens know of the special risks they face as new drivers can help them stay safe behind the wheel. It’s important to:
—Establish a zero tolerance policy for alcohol and drug use while behind the wheel.
—Ban calling or texting while driving.
—Set a curfew. Teens driving after dark are four to five times more likely to crash than those driving during the day.
—Give your teen experience behind the wheel.
—Make graduated driver licensing law in the home. It helps establish driving guidelines and limitations to new drivers, and can prevent fatal crashes by up to 38 percent.