| Safe Driving
Student with pigtails running toward her mom's car in the school pickup line

When it comes to getting your child ready for the school year, you probably plan for things like school supplies, clothes, and lunchbox snacks. However, no one prepares you for the ins and outs of school drop-off and pick-up etiquette!

Arm yourself with these 13 drop-off and pick-up hacks that’ll help you stay safe in the back-to-school flurry, in and out of school zones. (Plus, they’ll help you stay on the right side of your school’s PTA.)

1. Obey the speed limit.

Some drivers, including parents, zoom through school zones, where lower-than-normal speed limits are posted. It may seem obvious, but it’s important to slow down. A pedestrian hit by a vehicle traveling at 25 mph is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed compared with a pedestrian hit by a car traveling just 10 mph faster, according to AAA.

2. Stay out of the cross walks.

Whether you’re stopping briefly or parking for a more extended period, steer clear of the crosswalks. Crosswalks are meant to keep kids safe, so an idling car can get in the way.

3. Drop off or pick up the kids in designated areas.

To keep your child safe, pull up to the curb when you’re ready for them to get in or out of the car. Even if it looks clear, don’t let your kids off from a traffic-facing door or in between driving lanes.

4. Accompany your small child.

If your child is new to school and young (up to age 7 or so), you may want to park your car and accompany them to the school property versus dropping them off. Plus, according to What To Expect, it can help you and your toddler win the crying-at-drop-off battle.

5. Follow directions.

Crossing guards, patrol officers, and other school officials are there to keep your children—and everyone else’s—safe. Following their instructions is one of the easiest ways to help you safely navigate pickup and drop-off process.

6. Come to a full stop.

More than one-third of drivers roll through stop signs in school zones or neighborhoods, says AAA. Always come to a complete stop, checking carefully for kids on sidewalks and pedestrians in crosswalks before proceeding.

7. Keep your cool.

If you’re frustrated—maybe you’re running ten minutes late or spilled coffee—resist the urge to engage in parental road rage. Don’t let anger get the best of you—even when another motorist cuts in front of you! Be kind to yourself and others.

8. Stay off your cell phone.

First of all, it’s most likely illegal to use your cell phone when you’re behind the wheel in a school zone. Even if it weren’t, you should avoid texting or talking on your phone when you’re picking up or dropping off your child. Taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing, according to AAA.

9. Be on the lookout for bikes.

Children on bikes are often inexperienced, unsteady, and unpredictable, according to AAA. Allow at least three feet of passing distance between your vehicle and a cyclist.

10. Watch out for buses.

Don’t pass a school bus from behind, or from either direction if you’re on an undivided road when it’s loading or unloading children. Per the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration, passing a stopped bus that’s picking up or dropping off children is against the law in all 50 states. Doing so puts children at risk, and it puts you in danger of getting a hefty ticket for what is officially called a “stop-arm violation.” Some schools, such as those in the Austin Independent School District, are actively equipping their buses with cameras that capture school bus-related infractions.

11. Consider carpooling.

According to the Safe Routes to School Guide, having your kids participate in a carpool decreases the number of cars on the streets around the school. By reducing congestion, it also decreases the likelihood of an accident happening.

12. Get up to speed on the rules.

Familiarize yourself with the drop-off and pickup regulations at your child’s school, and pay attention to where the school zones are in your neighborhood.

13. Make sure your insurance is up to date.

If an accident were to happen during school pickup or drop-off, you’d want your car insurance to cover you fully. For instance, do you have enough collision coverage to endure a fender bender with the minivan that always cuts you off? Before the school year rolls around, check with your local Direct Auto Insurance to see what gaps you might have in your car insurance policy.

And if you’re still pulling your hair out in the carpool lane, share these drop-off and pick-up tips with your friends and neighbors. Maybe those drivers from your school will take the hint. Have any extra tips for behind-the-wheel parents? Make sure to leave them in the comments section!

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