A reading assignment for drivers as school opens

As students get acclimated to their class schedules, locker combinations and homework, adults also have some adjusting to do now that school is back in session.

Traffic patterns have changed dramatically since the first day at Hinsdale Central Aug. 21 and District 181 schools Aug. 22. More students are heading to and from school on foot or on their bikes — or getting a ride from mom or dad or even a classmate. They might not be paying as much attention as they should be, so drivers need to be extra vigilant.

To that end, we offer this annual reminder of driving tips from the National Safety Council.

• Don’t block the crosswalk when stopped at a red light or waiting to make a turn, forcing pedestrians to go around you, as this could put them in the path of moving traffic.

• In a school zone when flashers are blinking, stop and yield to pedestrians crossing the crosswalk or intersection.

• Always stop for a school patrol officer or crossing guard holding up a stop sign.

• Take extra care to look out for children in school zones, near playgrounds and parks, and in all residential areas.

• Don’t honk or rev your engine to scare a pedestrian, even if you have the right of way.

• Never pass a vehicle stopped for pedestrians.

The council also offers these suggestions for drivers sharing the road with bicyclists, noting that children often create special problems for drivers because they are not capable of properly determining traffic conditions.

• When passing a bicyclist, proceed in the same direction slowly, keeping 3 feet between your car and the cyclist.

• When turning left when a bicyclist is approaching in the opposite direction, wait for the rider to pass.

• When turning right with a bicyclist approaching from behind on the right, let the rider go through the intersection first, and always use a turn signal.

• Watch for bike riders turning in front of you without looking or signaling; children especially have a tendency to do this.

• Be extra vigilant in school zones and residential neighborhoods.

• Watch for bikes coming from driveways or behind parked cars.

• Check side mirrors before opening your door.

Finally, drivers who find themselves behind a bus should follow this advice.

• Never pass a bus from behind — or from either direction if you’re on an undivided road — if it is stopped to load or unload children.

• If the yellow or red lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended, traffic must stop.

• The area 10 feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for children; stop far enough back to allow them space to safely enter and exit the bus.

• Be alert; children often are unpredictable, and they tend to ignore hazards and take risks.

Let’s all do our part to make sure we share the road safely with students heading back to school.