Back to School Driving
As the summer break draws to a close, parents, students, and teachers will be preparing for a new school year. It is an exciting time. High schoolers will begin stocking up on the latest back-to-school apparel and supplies. Teen drivers will begin registering their cars for parking permits, if they haven’t already. And soon schools all across Colorado will be opening their doors and students will drag themselves out of bed, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (after hitting the snooze button several times) and hop into their cars, either enthusiastically or begrudgingly.
This is when the early morning rush-hour traffic will increase significantly. Students will be driving to school, in droves, speeding perhaps, with coffee or energy drinks in tow and cell phones at the ready. Or their parents will be dropping them off, with the same paraphernalia in their hands. Either way, traffic is going to peak in the mornings as more teens will be getting behind the wheel to get to school.
Almost 1,900 drivers aged 15 to 20 died in car crashes in 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, up nine percent from 2014. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among teenagers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For this very reason, driver alertness and defensive driving should be on everybody’s mind during the morning commute in the upcoming fall season. We all just want everyone on the road to get to wherever they’re going safely.
This information is not meant to demonize teenagers or cast them in a negative light. Its purpose is to present facts for the benefit of all drivers. Here are a few things to keep in mind during the back-to-school season, no matter your age or driving experience:
- Get ready for more traffic—everywhere.
Even if traffic is expected to increase in school areas, don’t assume it won’t increase on the interstate and other main roads. Practice the usual safe driving etiquette—maintain a safe distance, don’t follow too closely, use your turn signals, etc. Keep in mind that the rise of teen drivers in the imminent months means more inexperienced drivers on the road. Defensive driving will be even more pertinent during the upcoming months than before.
- Be wary of new drivers.
According the National Safety Council, car crashes involving teens spike every year during September and occur during the morning and afternoon hours, around the time school begins and ends. Among these teens are newly licensed teens, fresh from getting their driver’s license as recently as over the summer. Having a driver’s license, however, does not mean they are experienced. We’ve all been rookies at driving at some point. Do yourself and them a favor by giving them all the space on the road they need to become better drivers.
- Watch out for pedestrians.
The new school year marks an increase in foot traffic and people crossing the street. School buses will be making frequent stops and students will be riding their bikes or walking to school. Expect speed limits to drop in school zones. Police cars will usually be parked strategically with their blue lights on to alert oncoming drivers and direct traffic.
Speeding in a school zone carries a heftier fine than other speeding tickets because of the number of pedestrians nearby. Don’t block crosswalks, even at stoplights. Don’t be that person who stops their vehicle over the crosswalk at a red light, forcing pedestrians to walk around the vehicle in order to cross, putting them in harm’s way.
- Respect the school bus
Give the big yellow school buses plenty of room on the road. Yield to them when they try to merge and maintain your following distance. Remember that failing to stop for a stopped school bus or passing a stopped school bus in the state of Colorado is a Class 2 misdemeanor with a fine of up to $300 and/or imprisonment for up to 90 days, as well as six points on your driver’s license. It’s not worth it.
- Remember that distracted driving is everywhere
Teens are more likely to multitask while driving, leading to distractions and risky behavior that can lead to car accidents. While drivers of all ages inevitably engage in some form of distracted driving, teen drivers in particular are dominating the statistics. This is mainly because teen drivers seem to have a tendency toward the following:
- Skipping seat belts. Over a third of teens killed in car crashes were not wearing a seat belt.
- Texting while driving. This is more prevalent than ever. You’ve probably witnessed it before: A car in front of you drifts in and out of its lane, correcting itself over and over, only for you to discover, in passing, that the driver is not asleep at the wheel but looking down at a glowing phone screen. Texting while driving takes a person’s eyes off the road for an average of five seconds. This is why many states have passed laws cracking down on it, including Colorado. The penalty for texting while driving in the state of Colorado has increased from $50 to $300, plus four points on your driver’s license.
- Not speaking up. Only 50 percent of passengers in a car with a distracted driver report feeling unsafe. It’s not usually in the nature of groups of high school friends to check and balance each other when riding in a car together.
- Too many passengers. The risk of a fatal car crash increases with every teenage passenger in a car with a teen driver.
- Speeding. Almost 33 percent of teens killed in car crashes were speeding.
At Bachus & Schanker, LLC, cases involving teen drivers are not uncommon. It doesn’t take a professional to know that accidents happen and that your loved ones matter. When an accident requires legal action, an attorney who knows the territory can be a valuable resource and ally. With 25 lawyers and office locations in Denver, Fort Collins, Aurora, and Colorado Springs, Bachus & Schanker, LLC is committed to providing quality personal injury legal services to a growing population.
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