With school back in session, drivers all around the state of Arizona will once again need to exercise caution in school zones and crosswalks. One of the most important things you can do while driving in school zones is follow the rules. Arizona has a strict zero-tolerance policy towards traffic offenses that occur in school zones. Law enforcement is especially strict during this time of year as kids are heading back to school, with many police officers making sure the 15-mph speed limit for school zones is being enforced.

With Arizona schools back in session, drivers will once again need to be vigilant in school zones and crosswalks. Most drivers realize the serious responsibility they have to drive safely and properly where large numbers of young children may be present. No one would want to live with the lifelong guilt of having injured or killed a child in an Arizona auto accident. Even short of that worst-case scenario, most drivers are aware of the serious consequences of violating our state’s strict laws pertaining to driving in school zones and want to avoid the stiff penalties that can result.

The cardinal rule for driving in school zones is to OBEY THE RULES. Arizona has a zero-tolerance policy towards traffic offenses that occur in school zones. Enforcement is especially strict at this time of year, as police departments lay down the law for the new school term. The city of Mesa pioneered the 15-mph speed limit for school zones more than 60 years ago. The resulting decline in car accidents in school zones proved to the whole country the value of enforcing this very low limit. Citations are issued to drivers exceeding the limit by only a few miles per hour. Because school zone infractions carry doubled fines, speeding violations will cost a driver more than $100 and add points to his or her license. Other school-zone driving tips to keep in mind:

  • Come to a complete stop when required in a school zone.
  • Stop when pedestrians are in a crosswalk, and do not proceed until they are completely out of the crosswalk.
  • Do not pass other vehicles in a school zone, even vehicles in an adjacent lane, no matter how slow they are going.
  • Do not pass buses when their lights are flashing or their stop sign is extended.
  • Watch for children, especially in the mornings and afternoons, and don’t assume that they are even paying attention to traffic.
  • Don’t use a cell phone for any reason in a school zone. Unlike some states, Arizona doesn’t yet prohibit this, but play it safe anyway.
  • Don’t drive aggressively in school zones. Expect congestion around schools, plan accordingly and be patient and safe.

A few other school zone driving tips to keep in mind:

  • Do not pass other vehicles in a school zone, even vehicles in an adjacent lane, no matter how slow they may be going.
  • Do not pass other vehicles in a school zone, even vehicles in an adjacent lane, no matter how slow they may be going.
  • Do not pass buses when their stop sign is extended or their lights are flashing.
  • Come to a complete stop at all stop signs in a school zone.
  • When pedestrians are in a crosswalk, do not proceed until they are completely out of the crosswalk.
  • Use extra caution in the morning and afternoons when children are most likely to be walking to and from school.
  • Do not assume that children are paying attention to traffic.
  • Don’t use a cell phone for any reason in a school zone.
  • Don’t drive aggressively in school zones. Expect traffic congestion in these areas and plan ahead.

Determine “Right of Way” at Crosswalks and Street Breaks

Back in Driving 101, you were taught that pedestrians have the “Right of Way.” While this rule in the books is black and white, sometimes there are situations that seem like more of a gray area, like when pedestrians are just not paying attention or are stepping out when they shouldn’t. If you are ever in a situation where you need to wait for a child to cross the street before you can make a turn, motion to them that it’s okay for them to cross in front of you. This will often be reciprocated with a head nod or a wave. This is just one way you can help prevent pedestrian-related accidents in school zones.

Watch for Speed Enforcement Traps near School Zones

shutterstock_2096959Local law enforcement knows that when school is out of session, drivers drive close to the normal speed limit posted on roads surrounding schools. To encourage slower driving when students are back in school, they often employ speed enforcement zones near educational facilities. These zones can include permanent photo enforcement cameras, parked photo enforcement vehicles and motorcycle officers with radar guns. There is little warning to drivers, in hopes of catching them off guard.  They usually place the speed enforcement zone sign close to the ground in an inconspicuous place.

The double-edged sword of this speed enforcement measure is that some drivers panic and slam on their brakes. This can cause more accidents than driving at speed. To help avoid any auto collisions, be aware of school zones and reduce your speed when nearby schools during your commute, especially in the early morning and mid-afternoon hours.

Be Aware of Jaywalkers

Older children may forget or neglect to use a crosswalk when in a hurry to get to class. Scan the road often to look for any children who may run across the roadway without mediation. Avoid causing severe pedestrian injuries and even death by maintaining awareness in school zones.

Stay Within Lanes and Do Not Pass Until Out of School Zone

In elementary school crosswalks, you will often find road signs that alert drivers to slow to a certain speed and stop when children are in the crosswalk. These signs can cause exterior damage to your vehicle if you get too close to them when passing through the school zone. To help avoid any issues, slow your speed, stay in your lane, and only merge lanes after you have left the school zone.

Anticipate That School Buses Will Stop the Flow of Traffic

shutterstock_608510If you are behind a school bus, and they approach a school or neighborhood loading or drop-off zone, be aware that you will need to stop when they stop. They have the authority to stop the flow of traffic with their flashing stop sign, alerting nearby drivers that there are children present. This may affect your commute time, but getting involved in a pedestrian-related accident will further delay you. It’s best to play it safe near school buses.

Not all children are aware of the rules of the road just yet, but you are. Always be alert and aware in neighborhoods and school zones to help prevent serious pedestrian injuries.

If you have been involved in a school zone accident, or any other type of auto accident, it is important that you know your rights. At Skousen, Gulbrandsen & Patience, PLC, our experienced accident lawyers can help protect your rights during any legal proceedings that might arise. Call us today at 480-833-8800 for a free consultation.