Drive safely, school’s in session

September 1, 2009

By Chantelle Lusebrink

On Sept. 2, more than 16,000 Issaquah students will join the morning commute on foot, bicycle and bus for the first day of school.After not sharing the roadways with them for 11 weeks, motorists should plan ahead for delays and use extra caution.

“Drivers should be aware that we will have many more children on the roadways in the morning and afternoon — either in buses, waiting for buses, or walking to and from their homes,” said Sara Niegowski, Issaquah School District director of communications.

So, it may be time to remember basic driving tips like putting on your makeup before you leave the house, not flipping through radio stations as you’re cruising through a school zone and maintaining the speed limit.

Most speed limits reduce to 20 mph in a school zone, roughly 500 feet in either direction of a building, but distances vary.

On Second Avenue, city and police officials installed a speed camera that records a speeder’s license plate between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. People in violation of the school zone speed, 20 mph, during those times will be mailed a driving infraction.

Several roadways in the area also get more congested when school starts. District bus routes haven’t changed significantly for the school year, so drivers can expect many of the same bus patterns in the mornings and afternoons as last year.

The earliest schools start at 7:25 a.m. and the latest dismissal time is 3:38 p.m. There are heavy concentrations of buses on the roadway before and after those times, Niegowski said.

It is never permissible to drive around a school bus with red lights flashing. Two-lane thoroughfares like Southeast Issaquah Hobart Road, often get very congested as students load and unload the bus on the main road.

Drivers always need to obey the buses’ traffic lights: Yellow alerts drivers that the bus is preparing to load or unload children, while red tells motorists they need to stop.

Drivers should be vigilant of children even if they aren’t at an intersection. Nearly 40 percent of all child pedestrian fatalities occur between 4 and 8 p.m. at non-intersections, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Children often dart from between parked cars into the roadway on bicycles, skateboards, scooters and even while running, so be sure to look along the roadway for children who may be playing.

“Hopefully, drivers will slow down and be extra vigilant when traveling through neighborhoods, school zones, and crosswalks,” Niegowski said.

Back-to-school driving safety tips

-Slow down: Whether in a school zone or residential neighborhood, motorists should keep their speed low and be prepared to stop quickly for increased vehicle or pedestrian traffic.

-Obey traffic signs. Obeying traffic signs is something all motorists should do no matter where they drive. However, in a study, 45 percent of motorists didn’t come to a complete stop at a stop sign, 37 percent rolled through, and 7 percent didn’t slow down.

-Stay alert. Looking away from the roadway for just two seconds doubles the chance of being involved in a crash. Avoid talking on mobile phones, text messaging, adjusting the radio and other distractions.

-Scan between parked cars. Children quickly dart out between parked cars or other objects along the roadway. Motorists should pay close attention at intersections and residential roadways where children could be present.

-Look for clues of children nearby. Keep an eye out for clues that children are likely nearby, such as crossing guards, safety patrol members, bicycles and playgrounds.

-Always stop for school buses. Flashing yellow lights on a school bus indicate it is preparing to stop to load or unload children, and motorists should slow down and prepare to stop. Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate the bus has stopped, and children are boarding or exiting the bus. Motorists are required to stop their vehicles and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop sign is withdrawn and the bus begins moving before they can start driving again.

-Allot extra travel time. Back to school often means increased congestion and longer commute times. Motorists should allot extra travel time when school is in session to avoid any temptation to speed or disobey traffic laws.

-Review your travel route. Motorists should consider modifying their travel route to avoid school zones and residential neighborhoods. A slightly longer route might actually be quicker by avoiding congestion and much lower speed limits in and around school zones.

-Use extra caution in bad weather. Reduced visibility can make it difficult for motorists to see children and children to see vehicles. It also can make it difficult to perform quick stops, if needed.

-Use headlights. Turn on your headlights — even during the day — so children and other drivers can see them more easily.

Source: AAA Washington

Chantelle Lusebrink: 392-6434, ext. 241, or Comment at

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