Be safe around school buses

Cecil Whig - - OPINION -

Hello pen­cils. Hello books. Hello teach­ers’ happy looks. School’s back from sum­mer.

We love vis­it­ing schools on the first day of class. Those who won­der if ad­min­is­tra­tors, teach­ers and staff care about stu­dents need only watch chil­dren re­turn to school af­ter sum­mer break. We en­joy cap­tur­ing the smiles, high fives and hugs as stu­dents walk through doors held open by ea­ger prin­ci­pals and teach­ers.

But the start of a new school year also means a change in our morn­ing and af­ter­noon com­mutes as those big yel­low school buses full of our most pre­cious cargo are back on the roads. Tues­day af­ter­noon’s ac­ci­dent in the Ris­ing Sun area could not have been a more scary re­minder to all driv­ers on county roads this week.

AAA Mid-At­lantic and the Mid-At­lantic Foun­da­tion for Safety and Ed­u­ca­tion are once again urg­ing motorists to slow down and stay alert in neigh­bor­hoods and school zones through the an­nual “School’s Open — Drive Care­fully” cam­paign.

“As schools re-open, motorists must re­mem­ber to be ex­tra alert, slow down and ob­serve the lower speed lim­its in school zones and res­i­den­tial ar­eas, as chil­dren gather at neigh­bor­hood bus stops or are walk­ing to and from school,” said Rag­ina Cooper Averella, man­ager of pub­lic and govern­ment af­fairs at AAA Mid-At­lantic. “Ad­di­tion­ally, driv­ers must re­mem­ber it’s the law to stop, in ei­ther di­rec­tion of the road, for school buses when their lights are flash­ing red, as chil­dren may be cross­ing the street to ei­ther board the bus or get off.”

In 2014, nearly one-fifth of the 1,070 chil­dren 14 years and younger killed in traf­fic crashes were pedes­tri­ans, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional High­way Traf­fic Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion. Of the child pedes­tri­ans killed in sin­gle-ve­hi­cle crashes, 79 per­cent of the 203 chil­dren were struck by the front of the ve­hi­cle, the auto club states.

“More school-age pedes­tri­ans have been killed from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. than any other time of the day,” said Myra Wie­man, traf­fic safety pro­gram man­ager with the Mid-At­lantic Foun­da­tion for Safety and Ed­u­ca­tion. “Par­ents and guardians are urged to talk to their chil­dren about traf­fic rules and safety.”

As part of the “School’s Open — Drive Care­fully” cam­paign, the auto club and the Mid-At­lantic Foun­da­tion for Safety and Ed­u­ca­tion of­fer the fol­low­ing tips for driv­ers as school buses are back on the road.

•Slow down, fol­low the speed limit and be pre­pared to stop. Whether you are driv­ing on a high­way, in a res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hood or on one of Ce­cil County’s wind­ing coun­try roads, take your time and pay at­ten­tion to what is around your ve­hi­cle. Watch out for chil­dren who may dash out into the street or buses that may be com­ing to a stop. Keep in mind, many school zones now have speed cam­eras sta­tioned in them.

•Also, come to a com­plete stop at in­ter­sec­tions with stop signs. Re­search shows that more than one-third of driv­ers roll through stop signs in school zones or neigh­bor­hoods, ac­cord­ing to the AAA news re­lease. Look for clues of chil­dren nearby such as cross­ing guards, bi­cy­cles and play­grounds.

•Scan be­tween parked cars, the auto club ad­vises, be­cause chil­dren can quickly dart out be­tween them or other ob­jects along the road­way.

•Stop for school buses, no mat­ter how tempt­ing it may be to drive around them. Not only is it dan­ger­ous to go around a bus that is load­ing or un­load­ing chil­dren, it is against the law. Go ahead and slow down when you see those yel­low lights flash­ing on the bus; they mean the driver is about to stop and pick up or drop off chil­dren. When the lights go red and the stop arm swings out from the bus, stu­dents are hop­ping on or off the bus. Not stop­ping for a school bus can re­sult in costly fines, ac­cord­ing to the Mary­land State Police. A police of­fi­cer can is­sue a $570 ci­ta­tion and as­sess up to three points for fail­ure to stop for a school bus that is flash­ing red lights, ac­cord­ing to AAA. Bus driv­ers can re­port ve­hi­cle in­for­ma­tion to law en­force­ment and a warn­ing will be is­sued to driv­ers if the owner of the ve­hi­cle can­not be de­ter­mined.

•As with any time you get be­hind the wheel, min­i­mize dis­trac­tions. To be blunt, put down your phone.

The first days of a school year are filled with prom­ise: the prom­ise of new teach­ers, new lessons and new friends. So let’s all be a lit­tle more cau­tious, and pa­tient, on the road as we get back in the swing of the school year.

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