Stay Alert, Drive Safely as Children Return to School

As Alabama families transition from the hot and sometimes lazy summer days back to the routine of school, there are some important safety rules for both students and adults to keep in mind.

Rural roadways and residential neighborhood streets will be more congested with school traffic, school buses may be stopping along your route, active children may be darting between cars into the road, pedestrians may be distracted by electronics, and more bicycles and scooters may be in traffic. Drivers need to watch their speed, obey all traffic laws, and be on the lookout for children.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued the following advice for drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, or bus riders to stay safe, excerpted here.

School Bus Safety


Did You Know: School buses are the most regulated vehicles on the road; they’re designed to be safer than passenger vehicles in preventing crashes and injuries; and in every state, stop-arm laws exist to protect children from other motorists.

If you are driving, remember these simple rules:

Yellow flashing lights on a school bus mean slow down — don’t speed up — because the bus is preparing to stop. There are likely students waiting to get on the bus or parents waiting nearby to pick up children.

Red flashing lights mean stop — and wait at least 20 feet behind the bus — because children are getting on or off the school bus. Stay stopped until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop-arm is withdrawn, and the bus begins moving.

Even when lights aren’t flashing, watch for children, particularly in the morning or mid-afternoon, around school arrival and dismissal times. Be alert as you back out of a driveway, or drive through a neighborhood, school zone, or bus stop.

Parents - talk bus safety with your children:

Your child should arrive at the bus stop at least 5 minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive. Teach them to play it SAFE:

  • Stay five steps away from the curb.
  • Always wait until the bus comes to a complete stop and the bus driver signals for you to board.
  • Face forward after finding a seat on the bus.
  • Exit the bus after it stops and look left-right-left for cars before crossing a street.

Bicycle Safety


Be sure to do these simple things to keep your bike ride safe:

  • Always wear a correctly fitted helmet, and securely fasten the chin strap.
  • Ride in the same direction as traffic and follow traffic signs and signals.
  • Stay in the bike lane whenever possible.
  • Never use electronics while riding – they are distracting.

Pedestrian Safety


  • Use the sidewalk whenever possible, and if there isn’t a sidewalk, walk on the edge of the street facing traffic.
  • Whenever they are available, use marked crosswalks to cross the street, and look left-right-left for vehicles or bikes before crossing.
  • Make sure you never play, push or shove others when you walk around traffic.
  • Everyone should watch the road, not their phones.
  • If you are driving, especially in a neighborhood, look out for pedestrians at all times, everywhere.

The Injury Prevention Branch website contains a wealth of helpful safety resources for people of all ages.

Please keep safety in mind to prevent needless injuries, be aware of distractions, and keep Alabama safe for everyone.

Scott Harris, M.D., M.P.H.
State Health Officer