Students across Missouri are preparing to begin the 2019-2020 school year and the Missouri State Highway Patrol is reminding there will be a change in traffic patterns.

MSHP says school buses and parents taking their children to school will join other motorists on the road, which can affect the morning and afternoon commute. In good weather, pedestrian and bicycle traffic increases close to schools.

The Patrol reminds drivers to be alert, especially near school zones, playgrounds, and bicycle paths. Whatever route you drive, expect this additional traffic and prepare by allowing extra time to reach your destination.

In 2018, five people were killed and 457 people were injured in 969 traffic crashes involving school buses. Parents are encouraged to talk to their children about riding a bus, walking, or driving to school in a safe manner. If students ride a bike, make sure they wear a helmet and follow traffic laws.

Missouri law states that on a two-lane road, if a school bus is stopped and displaying warning signals while loading or unloading children, drivers must stop when meeting and following the bus. However, MSHP says it is only necessary to stop on a four-lane highway when following the bus.

Drivers who see a stopped school bus, should stay alert and follow the law. Children may not be aware of traffic and dart unexpectedly into the roadway.

Most traffic crashes involving young drivers (under the age of 21) in 2018 occurred between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m., when school typically lets out. Many of these drivers are young and inexperienced.

Parents: It is important to encourage young drivers to remember driving is a full-time job. Using a cell phone, texting, or adjusting the radio can be the distraction that leads to a traffic crash. Texting is against the law for anyone under the age of 22. Every driver should be aware of the increased traffic during this time—and not just in areas around schools, as some young drivers are headed to an after-school activity or going to work.