Aiken Goes Back To School: Middle School (copy) (copy)

McCampbell Middle School students pile out of a school bus during arrival to school.

The Aiken Department of Public Safety urges drivers to practice patience and caution when driving this school year. 

Lt. Jake Mahoney, with Public Safety, said some of the major issues with school year traffic include increased traffic at school zones, drivers unfamiliar with traffic patterns in school zones and drivers who demonstrate aggressive or impatient behavior. 

Motorists should also be aware that speed limits drop to 25 mph in school zones when warning lights are flashing. 

“Our children are our priority,” Mahoney said. “Please slow down in school zones.” 

Mahoney offers 10 simple tips for driving in a school zone: 

1. Slow down. The simplest thing any driver can do when there are new driving hazards is slow down.

2. Allow more time. As a new school year begins allow yourself more time to get where you are going until you can figure out the effects of increased traffic.

3. Stay alert! Make a mental note of any new bus stops or students walking to and from school. This way you won’t be surprised and will be prepared if you need to stop.

4. Learn the rules. Schools usually have places for parents to drop off and pick up children. If you are driving your child to school learn where these areas are and follow the procedures. If you need to go into the school ask where you can park your vehicle so traffic can continue to move smoothly. Never block pick and drop off areas.

5. Stop for school buses. When the red lights are flashing stop. It is against the law to pass a school bus when the lights are on.

6. Use a "What If" strategy. What if that child darts out in front of me? What if that car stops short? Remember young children are not able to accurately determine the speed of an oncoming vehicle and may take risks crossing the street. Use the “what if” strategy to keep you alert.

7. Yield to pedestrians. Remember to yield to children/parents in crosswalks. When a pedestrian is in a crosswalk they have the right-of-way.

8. Carpool. If at all possible carpool with other parents to pick up and drop off children. This reduces congestion and can even save you money. Also, if you have an older student who is allowed to drive to school have him/her carpool as well.

9. Talk with teen drivers. Remind your teen drivers about the importance of being extra careful in and around school zones.

10. Follow the speed limit. Most schools have reduced speed zones around them. Following the speed limit reduces the chances of you being in a crash and improves the chances for survival if a crash does occur.

Understanding school bus rules 

Drivers on the road this school year should be aware and observe traffic safety rules regarding school buses. 

According to the Aiken Public Safety website, motorists should always stop for when traveling behind a school bus. 

When on a two-lane roads, motorists traveling in both directions must stop for a school bus with flashing amber/red lights. On a road  with four or more lanes, drivers approaching a school bus from the opposite direction do not have to stop, however, drivers should slow down and proceed with caution. 

School Bus Stop Zones (copy)

Residents need to be aware of when they need to stop for stopped school buses as the school year starts back.

Motorists should also be aware of the different colored flashing lights of a school bus and their meaning. 

Yellow flashing light indicate the bus is slowing down in preparation to stop and unload children. Red lights and an extended stop sign indicates a the bus as reach a complete stop.

The minimum fine for passing a stopped school bus is as follows: 

  • First offense - $500 fine and six points off your license 

  • Second offense - $2,000 fine and six points off your license

Matthew Enfinger is a general assignment reporter with the Aiken Standard. Follow him on Twitter: @matt_enfinger