As the school year starts for many districts in the region, the risk of distracted drivers increases. This is because drivers tend to be distracted in school zones and near school buses.

Distracted driving is any activity that could take your attention away from the task of driving. This could be using your phone to make calls or text, sending emails, eating, drinking, grooming, reading, talking, programming a GPS, or even changing the radio station. All of these tasks take your mind off the road and could cause you to be dangerous to those around you. There are different types of distracted driving. These include visual, cognitive, and manual. Visual distracted driving is where a driver is not necessarily looking at the road or even has their eyes closed. Cognitive distracted driving is when your brain and mind are not focused on the road and you are not paying attention. The most common example of cognitive distracted driving is when someone says they don’t remember driving from point A to point B because they were on autopilot. Manual distracted driving is when you remove your hand or hands from the wheel.

Distracted drivers in school zones can be a real issue. A study done by Safe Kids Worldwide revealed that 1 in 3 drivers displayed distracted driving behaviors at drop off or pick up. Drivers also tend to speed through school zones because they are distracted and unaware of their surroundings. This can be very dangerous because, in addition to this, the students who are walking near these roads or at the crosswalks are also walking distracted. The same study showed that 1 in 4 high schoolers and 1 in 6 middle schoolers are distracted walking, this means they are not paying attention to their surroundings while walking in these areas. Distracted walking tends to happen when students are texting or listening to their headphones while walking.

Distracted drivers near school buses can also be a real issue. Despite it being illegal in all 50 states to pass a school bus that is stopped with red flashing lights on the stop sign arm extended, there were over 200 incidents related to school buses and students when it comes to another vehicle in 2016. Most of these drivers do not stop because they either do not see the bus and its lights from being distracted or they simply do not feel the need to stop. In the event a car goes speeding by a bus, they could crash into the bus or hit a student going to or from the bus.

It is important to pay attention when driving at all times but especially when in school zones or near school buses. Distracted drivers could cause an accident, hit someone, or worse. So when you are on the road and especially near school zones, remember the best way to keep you and those around you safe is to keep your eyes, ears, and brain on the road and to eliminate distractions around you.