With many children in Washington state returning to school this week, it’s time for drivers to slow down.

Remember, no matter how late you are, you’ll be later if a cop stops you for a school-zone or bus-related violation — or if you hit a child.

Children are particularly vulnerable when they’re standing at the bus stop and when getting on or off the bus in the afternoon, according to AAA and the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS).

“While school buses remain incredibly safe, students who ride buses are most vulnerable as pedestrians when they are outside the bus in the ‘danger zone,’ ” NASDPTS said in a statement announcing the organization’s intent to create the first national survey on the prevalence of illegal passing of school buses.

The penalty for passing a stopped school bus in Washington state is as much as $500.

For a refresher on the laws concerning school buses (can you pass one? when?), check out these guidelines.


AAA offers several additional recommendations on ways drivers can help to keep kids safe:

Slow down! Speed limits in school zones are reduced for a reason. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 25 mph is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed than a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling 35 mph. The speed limit in school zones is 20 mph, and the fine for speeding in one is as much as $234.

Come to a complete stop and check carefully for children on sidewalks and in crosswalks before proceeding.

Eliminate distractions. Children can be quick, crossing the road unexpectedly or emerging suddenly from between two parked cars. Reduce risk by not using your cellphone or eating while driving, for example.

Reverse responsibly. Every vehicle has blind spots. Check for children on the sidewalk, in the driveway and around your vehicle before slowly backing up. Teach your children to never play in, under or around vehicles.

Watch for bicycles. Children on bikes are often inexperienced, unsteady and unpredictable. Slow down and allow at least 3 feet of passing distance between your vehicle and a bicyclist. If your children ride bicycles to school, require that they wear properly fitted bicycle helmets on every ride.

Talk to your teen. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, and nearly one in four fatal crashes involving teen drivers occurs during the after-school hours of 3 to 7 p.m.