While COVID-19 has drastically altered the school year with virtual classes and part-time schedules, the arrival of fall still means that school is back in session. With thousands of children returning to the classroom this season, drivers need to remember that there are special precautions they should take when sharing the road with school buses.

According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), the most significant risk to students’ safety isn’t riding the bus, but approaching or exiting one. Traffic patterns tend to change when the school year resumes. Here are a few tips to keep in mind for driving near schools and school buses this fall:

1. Don’t speed

Did you know that a pedestrian hit by a car traveling at 25 mph is about two-thirds less likely to be killed than a pedestrian hit at 35 mph? You must abide by the speed limit in school zones and watch out for students who may run into the street without looking.

2. Avoid driving distracted

Glancing at your phone or multitasking while driving may seem harmless, but taking your attention off of driving for even a few seconds can significantly increase your risk of getting into an accident. Students may act unpredictably when crossing the street or be challenging to spot due to their short stature.

3. Come to a full stop

Many drivers are guilty of rolling stops or falling to come to a complete stop at intersections. When driving in a school zone or near a bus stop, be especially mindful of children in crosswalks before you proceed.

4. Observe bus signal lights

School buses use a few different flashing signal lights to indicate what they are doing to other motorists. If you see yellow flashing lights, this means that the driver is preparing to stop to let children on or off and that you should yield. Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign show that the bus has stopped and that children are entering and exiting the bus. Remember not to pass a bus when its sign is extended and wait until the bus has begun moving to start driving.

The school year may no longer look the same, but the rules for sharing the road with school buses still apply. By practicing extra caution around school zones and buses, you can ensure you stay safe on the road this fall.