The next time you drive through a school zone, pay close attention to road signs and follow the rules. Doing so will help you avoid a car accident or even worse, injuring a child. It’s important to note that not all school zones are designed the same way. Sometimes, it can be a little confusing to know which traffic rules apply. So before you need the services of a Louisville car accident attorney, keep in mind the following safety rules that apply to drivers in Louisville, Kentucky.
Understanding School Zones and Their Regulations in Louisville, Kentucky
School zones are specially designated areas that usually cover several streets near a school. These zones require more restrictive driving speed limits during specific hours to mitigate the risk of traffic accidents. The chosen hours usually correspond with times when students are travelling to and from school. These zones may be marked by road signs, which should include the effective hours and speed limit, or by a combination of road signs and flashing lights that note when the speed limit is in effect.
Children are at heightened risk of accidents when crossing busy streets. Their shorter height can make it difficult for drivers of trucks and SUVs to see them. Larger vehicles often have longer stopping speeds, making it difficult for them to come to a complete stop quickly. If a driver is speeding and a child darts out in front of them, the chances of an accident are dangerously high.
Children themselves often act without regard for danger. They may run out in the street to chase a ball, try to cross the street without looking both ways, or even play a game with friends in the street. And when a school lets out for the day, it’s difficult for school officials to corral hundreds of energetic children and keep them out of harm’s way on a daily basis. School zones are designed to encourage safe driving. The best way to do this is by discouraging speeding.
When you speed, you risk fines. In Kentucky, drivers caught speeding in a school zone must pay double the fine assessed for regular speeding tickets. You also cannot pre-pay your ticket and must face a mandatory court date. Further, speeding tickets typically add three points to your driving record. If you accumulate too many points from speeding or other driving-related offenses, your license can be suspended.
Legal Obligations of School Staff in Ensuring Safety
While it is indeed difficult for school safety staff to keep their eyes on all children entering and exiting their premises, they have a legal duty of care to provide reasonably safe supervision during pick-up and drop-off periods. They also must ensure that the crowds created during these periods do not create hazards for other pedestrians and drivers. Moreover, whether they maintain their own in-house fleet of vehicles or subcontract to a vendor, school officials are responsible for ensuring that school buses and vans adhere to all applicable safety laws and do not create or contribute to any safety hazards on the road.
School zones may be particularly active when a school hosts an event during non-school hours, such as a weekend football game. No matter when a school zone is active, school officials have a duty to provide a safe environment that includes reasonable student supervision and appropriate use of school vehicles and equipment.
Identifying Potential Hazards and Negligence in School Zones
Drivers can follow the rules of the road, yet still find themselves involved in an accident in a school zone. A bus driver who does not follow speed limits or exhibits other reckless driving behaviors may be at fault due to negligence. If a school safety officer is on their cellphone while children cross the street against the light, they could also be found liable for negligence. Unsecured equipment that falls from a school roof in front of oncoming traffic, for example, may be the kind of preventable hazard for which a school district, not a driver, is found at fault.
You must keep your eyes open for safety hazards and follow school zone rules. After meeting with a car accident attorney, Louisville drivers may learn they were partially at fault. This will limit the amount of compensation you might have otherwise been awarded.
Liability in Car Accidents: School Staff, Drivers, and Other Parties
When an accident occurs in a school zone involving a student, courts will consider whether negligent supervision was at play. School staff and drivers have a duty of care to their students and must provide reasonable supervision to help ensure their safety. This principle involves following all appropriate safety measures and policies. If, for example, a student ditches school midday, runs out into the street, and is hit by a driver, the school could be held partially liable, given that their negligent supervision allowed the student to leave the building.
As with any other personal injury case, the driver’s actions will be evaluated to determine their degree of responsibility for the injury. The driver may have been speeding, not following road sign directions, or otherwise operating the vehicle recklessly. Kentucky is a comparative negligence state, meaning the driver and the school might be found to be partially at fault.
While pedestrians have the right of way in Kentucky, they must exercise reasonable care to avoid causing accidents. Pedestrians can be found at fault if they jaywalk, walk distractedly, intentionally try to distract a driver, wear dark loathing at night, cross in a blind spot, or otherwise behave recklessly while crossing. Moreover, parents must exercise reasonable control over their minor child, or they, too, could be held partially responsible if their child causes an accident.
Legal Actions and Recourse for Victims of School Zone Accidents
If you’ve been involved in a car accident that occurred in a school zone, once you’ve gotten yourself (and others) to safety, your first step should be to report the accident. Seek medical attention, even if the injuries are relatively minor, to ensure you have documentation of those injuries. You’ll also want to contact an attorney who can help you with filing a claim or lawsuit for the compensation you may be entitled to.
Unlike many car accidents, accidents in school zones can be complex. A qualified personal injury lawyer will demonstrate that you followed the road rules or establish the extent to which you deviated from them. And if you did contribute to the accident, you may still be able to collect compensation. An experienced car accident attorney in Louisville, such as those at Sam Aguiar Injury Lawyers, can help make this determination and establish the extent to which the school or other parties were negligent and may have contributed to your accident.
Our attorneys will help you file a claim to maximize your chances of receiving compensation. So, if you’ve been in a car accident in a school zone in Louisville, Kentucky, contact us today to schedule a free consultation.