Safety in, around New­ton’s schools

Are stu­dents, driv­ers un­safe?

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - DANIELLE EVER­SON de­v­er­son@cov­

A Wal­ton County high school stu­dent died af­ter be­ing hit by three cars in front of his school Tues­day morn­ing, ac­cord­ing to the As­so­ci­ated Press. Ge­or­gia State Patrol of­fi­cials said the teen fell off a skate­board and was hit when he went to re­trieve it, the AP re­ported.

The teen’s death is a heart-rend­ing re­minder of just how un­safe roads can be­come dur­ing the school year. School buses also are back on the road­ways, so it’s a good time for stu­dents and par­ents to re­view safety con­cerns.

Deputy Jack Redlinger with the New­ton County Sher­iff’s Of­fice traf­fic unit rou­tinely pa­trols around schools in the county dur­ing morn­ings and af­ter­noons. Redlinger said one thing he has no­ticed is that par­ents are not around when their chil­dren go to and from school.

He said while on patrol at Vet­er­ans Me­mo­rial Mid­dle School and West New­ton El­e­men­tary School on Brown Bridge Road, he no­tices that chil­dren do not walk in the cross­walks and stu­dents some­times “dart out across the road­way.”

“If they do run out in the cross­walk, it’s go­ing to be their fault if they get hit,” Redlinger said.

He added that mo­torists also don’t stop when stu­dents are wait­ing to cross the street.

“I mean, some­one will even­tu­ally. But you know 10 cars will drive by be­fore some­one de­cides to stop and let those kids across,” he said. “If I’m out there, you know I’ll turn on my blue lights and I’ll block the road … and let the kids across the road. But you know it’s that way every­where.”

Redlinger said there used to be a time when par­ents

drilled their chil­dren about cross­ing road­ways safely.

“I think nowa­days a lot of par­ents take it for granted that their kids al­ready know, and they don’t tell them. But you know, I just don’t think young kids should be walk­ing to school by them­selves,” he said.

“A lot of th­ese kids also take it for granted that if they are stand­ing there or that if they step out there, (in the street), the car is go­ing to stop. And a lot of peo­ple just don’t pay at­ten­tion be­cause they are too busy talk­ing on their phones and tex­ting.”

As for school bus safety, Redlinger ex­plained that mo­torists should al­ways use cau­tion when driv­ing near school buses. If they don’t, there’s now the risk of a ci­ta­tion. In March 2012, the New­ton County Board of Ed­u­ca­tion voted to al­low Amer­i­can Traf­fic So­lu­tions to ex­e­cute an in­tera­gency agree­ment with the New­ton County Sher­iff’s Of­fice to re­view all vi­o­la­tions caught on tape. In the past, New­ton County’s school bus driv­ers have had to try to write down tag num­bers of un­safe driv­ers, which Redlinger said they were rarely able to do.

But with this tech­nol­ogy, a cam­era cap­tures video and pho­tos of driv­ers who vi­o­late school bus warn­ing signals. The penal­ties are $300 for the first of­fense, $750 for the sec­ond and $1,000 for the third within a five-year pe­riod. The vi­o­la­tions will go to the reg­is­tered owner of the ve­hi­cle cited.

Charles Ter­rito, with ATS, said stop-arm cam­eras were in­stalled on about 10 per­cent to 12 per­cent of New­ton County school buses in Au­gust 2012. And a year later, Deputy Redlinger said the sys­tem is work­ing “re­ally good.”

“We prob­a­bly get any­where from 10 to 20 vi­o­la­tions a day … an aver­age of 60 ci­ta­tions per week,” Redlinger said as he demon­strated how the sys­tem works.

“As soon as that stop sign (on the side of the school bus) goes out, it starts record­ing and tak­ing pic­tures,” he said. “Ev­ery day, we look at th­ese videos. And we ei­ther ap­prove them or re­ject them.”

“What we will do is, we’ll hit ac­cept and now, they are go­ing to get a let­ter in the mail stat­ing that they ran a stop sign and if they want to ar­gue it, they will come to court,” Redlinger said.

“I don’t know why peo­ple think they can just go right on through them, but they do,” he said. “Be­fore, we had no ev­i­dence; all we had was that pa­per­work that (bus driv­ers) filled out, but now we have this sys­tem. … Now we have ev­i­dence, with pic­tures and video.”

Redlinger said in gen­eral, stu­dents need to be ed­u­cated about traf­fic and school bus safety.

“We as par­ents need to make sure our kids are safe.”

The National High­way Traf­fic Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fers safety tips for stu­dents rid­ing the school bus: Tips for stu­dents

• Wait un­til the school bus driver says it is safe to board. Then get on the bus one at a time.

• Once you’re off the school bus, walk five gi­ant steps from the front of the bus, cross in front of the bus when the driver in­di­cates it is safe, stop at the edge of the bus – look left-rightleft again for traf­fic, and if there’s no traf­fic, cross the street.

• Ask the driver for help if you drop some­thing while get­ting on or off the school bus.

• Keep your loose items in­side your back­pack or book bag.

• Once on the school bus, go di­rectly to your seat and sit down fac­ing for­ward. Re­main in your seat fac­ing for­ward when the school bus is mov­ing.

• Be re­spect­ful of the school bus driver, and al­ways obey his or her in­struc­tions. Tips for par­ents

• If your chil­dren ride the school bus, walk with them to the bus stop and wait with them un­til they get on the school bus.

• Chil­dren need to be es­pe­cially care­ful around the school bus “dan­ger zone,” which is the 10 feet in front, be­hind and on each side of the school bus.

• Tell chil­dren to use the handrails when they get on and off the school bus, and be care­ful of draw­strings and book­bag straps that could get caught in the handrails and doors.

• When driv­ing in neigh­bor­hoods and school zones, watch out for young peo­ple who may be distracted and not think­ing about safety.

• Slow down. Watch for chil­dren play­ing and con­gre­gat­ing near bus stops.

• Be alert. Chil­dren ar­riv­ing late for the school bus may dart into the street with­out look­ing for traf­fic.

For more in­for­ma­tion on school bus safety, visit the National High­way Traf­fic Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion web­site at Bus safety pro­ce­dures and rules for the New­ton County School Sys­tem can be found by view­ing page 8 and 9 of each of the el­e­men­tary and sec­ondary stu­dent hand­books, which can also be found on­line at new­ton­coun­ pub­li­ca­tions/school-hand­books.aspx.

Danielle Ever­son/the Cov­ing­ton News

Some NCSS school buses are armed with cam­eras to iden­tify driv­ers who do not stop when sig­naled.

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