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Illinois drivers have obligations to child safety

The return of regular school days changes traffic conditions for DuPage County drivers. The roads are more congested at certain times of day as parent-driven vehicles and school buses, not seen since spring, make their rounds to pick up and drop off students. Bicycle and pedestrian traffic also increase near and in school zones.

Multiple traffic laws affect the way you drive in school zones and around school buses. The Illinois Department of Transportation warns school bus riders are most vulnerable as they enter or exit a bus.

Drivers forget children are poor judges of a vehicle's speed or distance. Children also trust adults and believe vehicles will stop. Motorists must adhere to all safety rules when a school bus slows or stops, including regulations that state when a driver must maintain distance and not overtake a school bus.

The largest number of school bus fatalities involve 5-year-old to 7-year-old pedestrians, children who had just got on or off a school bus. Between 2004 and 2013, the number of child pedestrians who died in school bus accidents was 116. School vehicle-related crashes during that period claimed the lives of 327 children, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration - the majority were children in vehicles other than buses.

Most drivers know it's important to use extra caution when driving near children. That means slowing down, observing traffic laws and giving full attention to driving. Children are taught how to walk, bike and ride buses safely on the way to and from school but children, who lack a true perception of danger, can't be held to the same high safety standards as adults.

A negligent driver may face criminal and civil charges if a child is harmed in a car accident. Parents may file claims on behalf of an injured child or wrongful death lawsuits, if a child dies, to recover compensation for damages.

Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, "Back to School Safety Advisory: NHTSA Encourages Everyone to Be Responsible for Getting Children To and From School Safely," Aug. 25, 2015

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