BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — As the 2023-24 school year kicks off and students are going to be back on campuses and in classrooms, travel will be affected.

This not only affects the students and their families, but also other cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers.

This time of year is particularly dangerous. Young, inexperienced drivers heading to high school, school buses, commuters, parents doing drop-offs, and pedestrians and bicyclists are all sharing the road. While traffic patterns may change, the responsibility for keeping students safe does not. It’s important that all drivers, as well as students, remain alert and follow basic precautions for a safe return back to school.

Lori Weaver Hawkins | Public Affairs Manager, AAA Blue Grass

As the back-to-school traffic will cause changes, the AAA advises drivers to be careful in and around school zones.

This time of year, school bus safety becomes a priority. Students, parents, teachers, administrators, transportation personnel and the motoring public all play important roles in keeping children safe while on or around a school bus. Motorists especially need to follow the rules of the road when it comes to stopping for school buses. School bus stopping laws are in place to protect our children going to and from school.

Lori Weaver Hawkins | Public Affairs Manager, AAA Blue Grass

West Virginia law requires motorists from any direction to stop when a school bus is stopped on a roadway, picking up or letting off passengers, and the stop arm and signal lights are activated. Drivers should stay stopped until the bus continues and the stop arm and signal lights are off.

There is a law in all 50 states that makes passing a school bus with red flashing lights on and the stop-arm extended illegal, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

No matter the plan, no matter the mode of transportation, everyone needs to remain vigilant – put down the phone, look up, and pay attention to help students get to and from school safely.

Lori Weaver Hawkins | Public Affairs Manager, AAA Blue Grass

Here are a few safety tips from the AAA as the 2023-24 school year gets ready to start:

Bus Safety Tips

  • Stop for school buses- When a school bus is preparing to stop for children to get on or off there will be flashing lights and the stop sign will be extended. Cars are required to stop and wait until the lights stop flashing and the signs are not extended before they can continue.
  • Watch the time- Keep an eye on what time it is when traveling and what time school hours are. Accidents with children of school-age are most often from 7 to 8 a.m. and from 3 to 4 p.m. than other times of day.
  • Watch your speed- No matter if you are in neighborhoods or school zones, drive slow and be ready to stop for higher car or pedestrian traffic.
  • Completely stop- Make sure to always stop completely and keep an eye out for kids on sidewalks and crosswalks before continuing.
  • Get rid of distractions- Taking your eyes off of the road for even a couple seconds can increase the chance of an accident. Stay off the phone while driving, and watch for children suddenly crossing the road or coming from between parked cars.
  • Follow traffic signs and signals- Many drivers do not listen to stop signs in neighborhoods and school zones by not coming to a complete stop, rolling through stop signs, or not slowing down at all. Some drivers also run red lights, which puts other drivers and pedestrians at risk.

Pick-Up/Drop-Off Safety Tips:

  • Know school pick-up and drop-off policies, and keep in mine that there may be changes from previous years.
  • Do not double park, as it can block visibility for children and other cars.
  • Always have kids get out of the car on the “curb side” so they do not open doors and get out into oncoming traffic and going around the car to get to the curb.
  • Do not let kids cross the street to get to the school.
  • Keep your speed low, get rid of any distractions, and look out for kids.

Pedestrian Safety Tips:

  • Make sure drivers can see you when crossing roadways. Do not cross from between parked cars, and use crosswalks when possible.
  • Seeing the driver does not always mean that they can also see you.
  • Be careful when crossing, look both ways, and watch for other cars, people, and cyclists.
  • Watch the lights and make sure traffic has stopped before crossing roads, and make sure there is enough time to safely get across the road.
  • Use push-buttons at crosswalks if they are available, and watch the signal for when it is safe to cross.
  • Keep an eye out for any turning cars when crossing.
  • When walking, stay on sidewalks. If there are no sidewalks then be sure to walk facing traffic, to the left side, and stay far to the left.
  • Wearing light and/or bright colors, reflective materials, or having a flashlight when needed will make it easier for drivers to see you.
  • Do not use cell phones or have headphones in when crossing roadways.
  • Keep an eye out for any cars that could be backing up when in parking lots or driveways.
  • Always walk with a friend or friends when possible, do not walk alone.

Bicycle Safety Tips:

  • Know that your children can ride a bike safely, including being able to signal to drivers and driving in straight lines.
  • Know what safe routes are available for kids on bikes to get to school, such as roads with slow speeds and low traffic. Use bike lanes if possible, or sidewalks if allowed.
  • Make sure that those on bikes know rules about traffic safely, including following stop signs and signals, and making sure to travel the same direction as other traffic.
  • Be sure that children know the importance of wearing a helmet.
  • Do not ride with electronics, headphones, or cell phones.