School Starts Next Week – Be Prepared for Traffic Changes

Seattle-ites will notice these signs around town highlighting school safety. Look for a future SDOT blog post about these signs.

Seattle-ites will notice these signs around town highlighting school safety. Look for a future SDOT blog post about these signs.

We hope everyone has a fun and super safe Labor Day weekend and that Seattle students enjoy the last weekend of summer vacation. Traffic patterns will change next Wednesday when school starts, the local fleet of yellow school buses is deployed and kids start walking and biking to class. Here are some basic tips to ensure a safe and smooth transition into the school year:

Watch for Students, Focus on the Road

Kids can be impulsive. They are generally shorter in stature and can be more difficult to see. Drivers should be on the lookout for pedestrians and bicyclists at all times and be especially watchful this time of year as kids get accustomed to their route to school. Everyone should expect to encounter student pedestrians and bicyclists whether you’re on a relatively quiet residential street or a busy principle arterial roadway. Put your phone away, avoid distractions, and keep kids safe!

Walk and Bike to School

It’s been estimated that 20 percent of weekday automobile trips are school-related and that can be seen in the overcrowded streets near our schools during arrival and departure times. Consider kicking off the school year by starting a new habit: walking or biking to school instead of driving. Once the norm in America, the number of students walking and/or biking to school has dropped-off considerably since the 1970s. Our Safe Routes to School program is working to reverse that trend through infrastructure investments and safety education and more and more Seattle schools are on board. After all, active transportation is fun and healthy and kids tend to be more ready to learn when they arrive at school. And by walking or biking to school, your family will have a positive impact on traffic conditions.

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Slow Down

The school zone speed limit is 20 miles per hour for good reason – pedestrians hit by vehicles going 20 are likely to survive and the odds of surviving a crash decrease significantly with higher speeds. All of Seattle’s 150+ school zones are well signed so there’s no excuse for exceeding the speed limit. The Seattle Police Department will be out enforcing the reduced speed limit as will the City’s network of school zone photo enforcement cameras. Nine additional cameras will start issuing warning citations on Wednesday (and actual citations in October). Check out our website for more information and remember that 20 is plenty!

Of course SDOT has a lot more to say about Safe Routes to School. Check back to the SDOT Blog in September as we highlight our school safety efforts.