First bells have rung at schools across the region with its annual uptick in traffic snarls, coffee spills and forgotten lunches on the kitchen counter.
AAA-Auto Club of Michigan tells us that more than half of the state’s drivers pass through a school zone and close to half drive by a school bus stop in their daily commute. This means navigating around congested and often confusing drop-off zones for buses and cars, and swarms of walkers and bikes.
Some of us are still in summer mode, so we’ve arranged a pop quiz to bring us up to speed ... or in this case, down a few clicks. Here’s a few questions to knock the rust off after summer vacation.
Q. How big is a “school zone?” in Michigan?
A. Up to 1,000 feet in any direction from the school itself.
Q. What is the school zone speed limit?
A. No more than 20 miles per hour less than the speed limit normally posted and not less than 25 miles per hour.
Q. How long does a school speed limit last?
A. Up to 30 minutes before/after dismissal.
Q. What if I get a ticket in a school zone?
A. Fines are DOUBLE that the same violation in a non-school zone and 3 to 5 points are assessed for speeds from 1-15-plus miles over the limit.
Q. Do I have to stop for the school bus if its lights are flashing and I’m in the opposite lane?
A. Yes, both lanes stop, unless you’re opposite the bus on a divided highway.
Alas, many of us forget our own driving school lessons.
AAA reports that 40 of surveyed drivers admit to exceeding the speed limit and 32 percent of drivers are on their hand-held cell phone in active school zones.
More than a quarter of surveyed drivers admit to driving around buses with flashing lights or cutting off a school bus that was driving “too slow.”
When you add this to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration observations of approximately 39,000 students in school zones — unsafe street crossing in nearly 80 percent of students and distracting walking by nearly 1 in 4 high school students and 1 in 6 middle school students; 44 percent wearing headphones; 31 percent texting; 18 percent talking on the phone, and 7 percent combining operations — it’s a dangerous equation.
Slow your roll this year around schools and buses, and don’t count on the kids to be paying attention. That way, we can all graduate to another summer safely.