It’s that time of year again, one most parents celebrate and most kids mourn. It’s back to school time! Most schools in this area start in the next week or two and it’s clear that people are getting ready in their own way. The stores are filled with school supplies, teachers are preparing their classrooms, and there’s extra speed traps around school zones to remind people it’s time to slow down.
I wanted to share a few (mostly common sense) tips that I’ve learned over the years about making the back to school traffic a little more bearable.
How I know my stuff
During my nearly eight years as an education reporter, I wrote the “back to school traffic story” every year. Sure, part of it was to fill the pages. But it seemed like every year people would forget what school traffic is like. Maybe the three months off made them forget, maybe the summer heat fried the memory from the brain. But somehow as a society we forget.
In a high-growth area like Northwest Arkansas, it was also true that we had a steady flow of new folks to the community every school year and NWA traffic is a force of nature not paralleled in other communities its size so writing traffic tip stories always seemed extra relevant.
Every year I would call various police departments and school safety programs to talk to them about what people needed to do to make the whole back to school time a lot less crazy and a lot more safe. Each year, the message was pretty similar and I wanted to share some of those common tips here. I think they ring true no matter what kind of school year, what kind of community you live in.
Back to school traffic tips
- Leave early for your destination during at least the first week of school. The first week is always the worst because more parents want to take their kids to school instead of putting them on the bus. More cars on the road means more time! This tip is for everyone, regardless if you have kids or not.
- Respect the school buses. You know that stop sign arm that stretches out when the door is open? It’s an actual stop sign. That means stop. Kids could be crossing in front of the bus and could easily be hit if you decide to whip around the stopped school bus.
- If you’re often finding yourself stuck behind school buses, change routes or change your timing. Buses run on a schedule on the same route. It is not rocket science. They can’t change their course to get out of your way, so get yourself out of the way.
- Consider taking a different route, especially if your usual route in the mornings takes you past a school zone. The car lines are long and they block traffic. Save yourself time and help by not adding to the traffic problem by simply getting to work (or wherever) a different way.
- Watch for kids around school bus stops. Kids will be kids. We adults tell kids to watch for cars, but kids don’t always listen. Kids might be playing on the side of the road as they wait for their bus, so be careful.
- If you are a parent, please consider putting your child on the bus or carpooling. This will reduce the number of cars on the road and in the car line.
- Obey traffic laws. I know, this is stupid obvious, right? But keep in mind speed limits, rules about pedestrians and rules about cell phone use in school zones. Does your state have laws against using cell phones at all in a school zone? What about texting and driving? Even if there are such laws in place where you live, consider the safety of others (especially lots of small kids) and put the cell phone away while you’re driving.
- Be mindful around all schools if you have to go through a school zone. The elementary schools have little kids playing around, the high school has a lot of new drivers taking themselves to school for the first time. Either way, please be extra cautious.
A new school year is a great time to learn, have fun and make new friends. Let’s keep the kids of our communities safe so they can enjoy the new year!