That combination can lead to serious accidents if children and motorists aren’t careful. And as students head back to school – some walking or riding their bicycles – I join our local law enforcement officials in urging drivers to watch the road even more carefully.
Starting a new school year can be an overwhelming experience for a child, especially in a brand new school with new class mates and teachers to cope with. If starting middle school, many children will also have to make a longer journey that they are less familiar with and may walk or cycle on busier roads or use buses on their own for the first time. Young people tend to think that road accidents will never happen to them, so road safety often seems a low priority compared with the other pressures of starting a new school year.
Parents, please talk to your children about the safest route to school and warn them of any potential hazards. Please ensure they can be seen, give them brightly colored, fluorescent or reflective clothing to wear, and if riding a bike, have a helmet on. If you need a helmet, let me know.
Take a moment to explain other road safety issues such as how to behave on a bus, where to cross the road and to always wear seatbelts in cars.
Let me offer these advices to you:
Motorists: hang up that darn cell phone. Distracted drivers can impair the critical skills essential for safe driving.
Be aware that there will be an increase in children in the area of all our schools when the new school term begins. These children may be unfamiliar with their route so please take extra precaution.
In fact, slow down and obey all traffic laws. Be on the lookout for children at and near bus stops, and always stop for a school bus that is picking up or dropping off children.
As a reminder, motorists must stop in both directions for school buses while they are picking up or dropping off children. Traffic must also stop in both directions on a four-lane undivided highway when the buses display red flashing lights.
Drivers on a divided four-lane highway travelling the same direction as the bus must stop and wait until the flashers are off before continuing. Passing a stopped school bus is considered reckless driving.
Children: watch the road. Don’t dart out into traffic from between parked cars or walk behind buses, because drivers may not see you, even if you are wearing a Hannah Montana backpack that’s bigger than both your parents combined. You should never cross a street unless you’re at an intersection.
If you’re walking to and from school, you should rely on crossing guards for help crossing the street safely. If there is no crossing guard, use the walk-light button and wait to cross the street at marked crosswalks.
Crossing guards: That Glo guard’s vest is a very pretty vest, but it is not bulletproof. Even with the vest on and a stop sign held high, they will often seem invisible to motorists. I have written stories of school crossing guards being run over by errant drivers.
Never argue with a child. Most children are well-behaved, but we all have a few bad apples. By the time a child gets home and tells his or her parents what the mean crossing guard said, Mom and Dad go to the police, and you have a whole mess that nobody needs.
Be fair, friendly but not familiar, with children. No hugging, especially in the age of cell phones. I recalled the case at one of our elementary school where a motorist saw a guard hugging a child and got on the cell phone to police to report witnessing inappropriate behavior. It turned out the guard was the child’s grandmother, but police still had to investigate.
Our children are our future and we need to do everything to make sure they are safe as they strive for the education they need to prosper in life.
We want everyone to arrive and leave school safely. Please drive carefully. Until next week….