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Each year, hundreds of children are injured or killed by motor vehicles, on foot or when riding bicycles, according to the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration. Children may not always pay attention to traffic as they head to and from school each day, so it’s up to you drive defensively when school is in session. Keep in mind some basic tips for keeping aware of children when driving and you’ll help keep roads safer.

Sound Warnings

As you approach children on foot or riding bikes, tap your horn to let them know you are coming. Many kids wear headphones or earplugs while listening to music or may be wearing hooded jackets that don’t give them an accurate read on where traffic is in relation to them. Remember that children don’t always cross the street at intersections, so be prepared to stop at any moment.

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Slow at Intersections

Although the rules for obeying stop signs and traffic lights may be obvious for adults, a child who is excited to see a friend across the street or chasing a ball can be oblivious to traffic safety signs and devices. At the very least, take your foot of the gas pedal and be ready to brake if a child darts in front of your car.

Use Signals

Just because no other cars are present doesn’t mean you don’t need to use your turn signals. Children taught to watch for traffic look for turn signals, and if they don’t see your signal at an intersection, they may assume you’re going straight and cross a street, even if they don’t have the right of way. Use your signal even if you’re just changing a lane to prevent children from entering that lane for any reason. Although using turn signals is generally mandated by law, many drivers get out of the habit of using them–follow this important safety law at all times to stay in the habit and you won’t forget to signal when children are present. When passing children on bikes, follow the NHTSA recommendation of giving cyclists at least 3 feet of clearance.

Use Caution Near School Buses

Many school buses have flashing lights and moving signs that activate during pickups and discharges. Don’t rely on these indicators to assume the area is clear of children. A child who is late for the bus and whom the bus driver does not see may not see you. If the child runs up from behind your car, they may dart in front of you. Use extra caution any time you are near a school bus.

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