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Keeping North Carolina’s kids safe on the way to school

Published May 2, 2014

Across the United States, an estimated 23 million children ride the bus to and from school each day, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Government crash data shows that kids who ride the school bus are much less likely to be hurt or killed in a traffic accident than those who drive themselves to school or get a ride from a friend – or even from a parent. In fact, kids face a higher risk of being hurt in a crash when approaching or leaving the school bus than they do while actually riding the bus.

To help keep North Carolina’s children safe as they make their way to and from school each day, it is essential that all drivers familiarize themselves with the state’s school zone and school bus safety laws.

Slowing down in school zones saves lives

School zones in North Carolina are marked by special signs, pavement markings and, in some cases, flashing lights. Drivers are required by law to obey the posted speed limits in school zones, which are typically lower than those in the surrounding area and may be effective only during certain hours.

School zone speed limits are not set arbitrarily. Slowing down in school zones helps keep children safe, not only by reducing the risk of collisions but also by dramatically reducing the risk of death or serious injury in the event that a child is hit by a car.

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, speeding drivers are three times more likely to crash than those who obey the posted speed limit, due in part to increased stopped distances and reduced reaction times. When a crash involving a pedestrian does occur, the pedestrian’s chances of survival decrease sharply at higher speeds.

For instance, according to data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, a person struck by a car is nine times more likely to be killed if the car is traveling at 30 miles per hour than at 20 miles per hour. For children, the difference in fatality risk is likely to be even more pronounced due to their small size.

Know when to stop for a school bus in North Carolina

Another critical part of keeping kids safe on their way to and from school in North Carolina is for all drivers to know when to stop for school buses. In most cases, state law requires all traffic in both directions to stop when a school bus stops to pick up or let off a student.

In certain limited circumstances, however, only the vehicles traveling in the same direction as the school bus are required to stop. This is true only on roadways of four lanes or more in which there is either a median separation or a center turn lane.

Get legal help after a crash

When a child is hurt in a traffic accident in North Carolina, his or her parents have the option of seeking compensation on the child’s behalf through the civil legal system, which may help offset the child’s medical bills and other related expenses. If your child has been hurt in a crash, be sure to discuss your options with an experienced personal injury lawyer.