The lazy, hazy days of summer are fading (well, kind of, as it’s Virginia so the hot and hazy stays around a few more weeks) as kids board the big yellow bus on their way to a new school year. As drivers who may have been a little on autopilot on their way to work each morning, it’s time for us wake up and pay attention.

Greene County Public Schools’ students begin on Wednesday, Aug. 14. United Christian Academy heads back Aug. 19. Blue Ridge School heads back to class on Sept. 4.

According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, fall is the most dangerous time of the year for pedestrians. Here are some tips to help everyone arrive safely to school and back home again:

Respect that bus: It is illegal to pass a school bus with flashing lights that has stopped to load or unload children. Never pass a bus from behind. The 10-foot area around a school is the most dangerous for children, according to the National Safety Council, so be sure to stop far enough back to allow them the space to safely enter and exit the bus. Be alert for children coming off a bus as they’re unpredictable and may run across the road without looking both ways. Teach your children how to be SAFE around school buses, as well—stay five steps away from the curb, always wait for the bus driver to tell you when to board, face forward after finding a seat on the bus and exit the bus when it stops, looking left-right-left and take five steps away from the bus toward the curb.

Heed the zone: Speed limits in school zones are between 25-35 mph. If the lights are flashing, slow down. Allow yourself extra time to get to work in the morning for unanticipated bus stopping or for traveling through school zones. AAA notes that a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 25 mph is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling just 10 mph faster.

Stop! Drivers should come to a complete stop at stop signs and look for children on sidewalks or in crosswalks before proceeding. Teach your child not to text and walk and to cross a street only at a cross walk.

Eliminate distractions: Research shows taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing, according to AAA. Don’t use your cell phone while driving.

Prepare your kids to be safe: Nearly one in four fatal crashes involving teen drivers occurs during the after-school hours of 3-7 p.m. Talk to your teen about defensive driving, reducing distractions and the proper use of seat belts.

We wish everyone a fun and safe school year!

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