Back-to-school traffic safety

September 7, 2009

by Jenni Sebora

After a hiatus of a few months, our children are heading off to school. Some on foot or bike, some by bus, and others brought to school by parents or siblings.

While it’s been a while since we have been involved with “school schedules”, it is important that we refresh ourselves with the rules of the road around children and schools.

Many of us are familiar with the fluorescent vested crossing guards with flags extended requiring us to stop near schools. But, did you know that drivers are required to stop and allow pedestrians to cross at crosswalks at all times, and that the penalty for failing to do so is punishable by up to three months in jail? This is especially important to keep in mind when children are trying to cross the street and may not be as patient with motorists as adults may be.

Motorists must also be aware of school buses. Motorists should always expect busses to stop to pick up or drop off students. If you in a pattern of driving in the morning or mid afternoon, plan your trip accordingly and allow extra time.

Motorists, by law, must stop at least 20 feet from a school bus with its red lights and stop arm extended. Failing to do so when children are getting on or off the bus could result in a year in jail and a suspended driver’s license. The flashing amber lights are a warning that the bus will soon be making a stop.

Be especially cautious at corners or intersections where you may not be able to see the extended stop arm or red lights flashing.

If you are dropping kids off at school, be especially vigilant. Remember, school zone speed limits are 20 miles an hour. Watch for kids darting from between parked cars near schools, and be aware of children on bikes who may or may not obey traffic signs and rules. Unfortunately, children can be unpredictable in their actions.

You can also help your child be safe going to and from school by reminding them of a few common sense rules:

• Look both ways before crossing the street.

• Cross the street at a crossing guard whenever possible.

• Walk bicycles or scooters across the street.

• Obey traffic signs.

• Don’t dawdle when crossing the street.

• Wear a helmet when riding a bike, skateboard or scooter.

By following these simple rules and looking out for each other, we can look forward to a safer school year.