Drive Safely Around Children

Whether or not you have children, you must learn how to drive when they’re around in order to avoid potential injuries and fatalities. Driving safely around children means keeping in mind their unpredictable nature, which translates to you slowing down and paying more attention to the road.[1] Pay special attention near schools, residential neighborhoods, and other areas where kids tend to congregate, but keep your eyes peeled whenever you see or anticipate children being around.


Using Caution Whenever Kids May Be Around

  1. Be vigilant during times when children are most likely to be outside. This is typically before and after school, and also during the day on weekends, holidays, and summer vacation.[2]
    • Don’t let your guard down just because it’s dark outside, though. Any time you suspect that kids may be around, assume that they are around and drive accordingly.
  2. Keep an eye out for children darting around residential neighborhoods. Kids often play outside after school, on sunny days, and even in the snow. They may be riding bikes or running, which can make it hard for you to slow down in time to see them if you are going over the speed limit.
    • The speed limit is often 25 mph (40 kph) in residential areas — stay at or below it.
  3. Turn the corners of your neighborhood slowly.[3] Since children often like to play in front of their homes, they can be prone to darting into the street without noticing you turning. Be extra wary if you notice children are playing ball games, as they may run into the road after a ball.
    • Also be aware of ice cream trucks, since children often run towards these without paying attention to traffic.[4]
  4. Back out of your driveway slowly. Kids may be either walking or playing behind your vehicle. It can be hard to see small children from your rear view mirror, which is why quickly looking in it before backing up is not enough of a precaution. Glancing behind your car before you get in can give you peace of mind that there are no children there.[5] Be careful driving out of any driveway in forward gear too.[6]
    • If your car has a backup warning system and/or camera, use it.
  5. Drive carefully along streets that are lined with parked cars. Kids may be in between the vehicles, about to cross the street unexpectedly. If you do see feet under the cars, hinting that kids are present, drive slowly until you pass them safely.[7]
    • Just because there’s a crosswalk nearby, don’t assume a kid will use it.
  6. Be careful when driving on streets with no sidewalks. Children may find it hard to keep to the edge of the road in such a situation. Give them a wide berth and drive cautiously as you pass them by, especially from behind.
  7. Keep your eyes on the road when you drive around children. Looking away to change the radio station is enough time for you to hit a child with your car. Focus on your primary task — driving safely — whenever you know or think kids are nearby. Everything else can wait.[8]

Being Extra Careful Near Schools

  1. Obey the speed limit in school zones. Streets near schools often have reduced speed limits during school hours — for instance 15 mph instead of 25 mph (25/40 kph) — that are designated by signs with flashing lights. Though this limit may seem excessively low when you do not see any children, small kids can hide easily or make sudden movements.[9]
    • In addition to the safety factor, remember that speeding tickets in school zones can be particularly costly.
  2. Don’t lose focus just because you’re beyond the school zone. Before and especially after school, pay attention while on the surrounding streets and in nearby areas where children often hang out, such as playgrounds and parks. Kids walking home after school often have a lot of pent-up energy, and may in turn be less mindful of their surroundings.[10]
  3. Never pass a school bus that has stopped and put out its stop sign. If you see either an extended sign or flashing lights, or both, know that children will be entering or exiting the bus at that time. In their haste, they may dart in front of your car unexpectedly.[11]
    • By law, you cannot pass a stopped school bus whether you are behind it or facing it. Just be patient and wait for the bus to pull away.
    • Be cautious driving near children even after the bus leaves, since you do not know their next move.
  4. Obey the crossing guard. Crossing guards often patrol busy intersections near schools, and in many cases are volunteers seeking to make their community a little safer. Show respect for their safety, and that of the children they’re trying to protect, by watching for them carefully and obeying their commands.[12]
    • Whether there’s a crossing guard around or not, give younger children, who may walk more slowly, plenty of time to cross at pedestrian crossings.
    • Basically, when you’re near a school: Pay Attention; Be Patient; and Slow Down.[13]

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