The Denver metro area is on the brink of beginning another school year — and the annual change in traffic flow that comes with it.
School buses will be out in droves, making frequent stops. Lights will be blinking in school zones, indicating a lower speed limit is required. Children will be walking on sidewalks and crossing streets on foot, sometimes when and where they're supposed to, sometimes not. Other students will be doing the same on bicycles. And many high school students will be driving to their destination, meaning an influx of inexperienced motorists in a concentrated time frame.
Those back-to-school factors will mix with Colorado's still-going summer roadwork season. In some areas, like northern Douglas County, roads under construction seem more the rule than the exception, so caution is already at a premium.
Toss in the wild cards of bad weather and distracted driving — motorists texting, talking, eating, grooming and so on — and it's enough to make you want to stay home. We wouldn't advise that, but we would recommend having some patience and being alert.
More than 60 years ago, AAA launched a campaign called “School's Open, Drive Carefully.” The organization has some commonsense and potentially life-saving advice for those behind the wheel as children make their way to and from school. Among their tips:
• Take it slow. Observing the lower speed limits in school zones incrementally reduces the chance a motorist will kill a pedestrian, AAA says.
• Pay attention. Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing, AAA says. And we would like to issue a reminder that texting and driving is not only foolish and dangerous, but in Colorado, it's against the law.
• Give them a brake. Thousands of motorists pass stopped school buses on a typical day, AAA says. Again, dangerous as well as illegal.
• Just stop it. Don't roll through stop signs, but make a complete stop, checking for children on sidewalks and crosswalks.
• Watch for bicycles. Kids on bikes can be unpredictable, so slow down and allow a safe passing distance.
• Plan ahead. Leave for your destination a few minutes earlier than normal. We really like this tip as it builds in the time motorists need to comfortably take all of the above precautions.
This time of year is full of excitement and promise. We're hoping everyone gets back to — and home from — school safely.