School safety pa­trols: Pri­or­ity No. 1

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - DEB­O­RAH SIM­MONS Deb­o­rah Sim­mons can be con­tacted at dsim­mons@wash­ing­ton­times.com.

When it comes to ed­u­ca­tion, it should go with­out say­ing that teach­ing and learn­ing are the top pri­or­i­ties in­side school­houses.

Get­ting stu­dents safely to and fro, then, is Pri­or­ity No. 1.

En­ter John Warner and Joe Bi­den, Ed­win Moses and Bruce (Caitlin) Jen­ner, Clarence Thomas and War­ren Burger, and Lynette Woodard and Joe Gara­gi­ola.

And to that list a Vir­ginia 10-yearold named Frank, who wrote a let­ter to Pres­i­dent Trump and told him he’d mow the White House lawn.

Th­ese sto­ried in­di­vid­u­als be­gan mak­ing a name for them­selves as young­sters in the AAA School Safety Pa­trol Pro­gram. Man­ning des­ig­nated in­ter­sec­tions and school bus stops, the young pa­trollers are re­spon­si­ble for help­ing to usher kids safely from the street to school prop­erty in ur­ban and ru­ral ar­eas.

The pro­gram be­gan in Chicago in 1920, 18 years af­ter AAA’s own start and amid the decade when Due­sen­bergs and Cadil­lacs, Fords and the Dodge broth­ers moved Amer­i­cans.

Nowa­days, more than 253 mil­lion cars and trucks mo­tor Amer­i­cans along, and one of the great­est as­sets par­ents and stu­dents have in their back-to-school safety ar­se­nals is the AAA safety pro­gram, which works with po­lice and sher­iff de­part­ments, and school and com­mu­nity lead­ers to en­sure stu­dents know when to stop and when walk.

As par­ents re­set the backto-school but­tons, mo­torists must pay spe­cial at­ten­tion to chil­dren. Many are the mo­torists who have been plugged into sum­mer mode, with lit­tle worry about school buses and the pre­cious cargo they carry.

The start of a new school year, how­ever, means you might have not only to change your com­muter route but also to travel a morn­ing and evening rush-hour route with school buses. Lo­cal­i­ties and states have proac­tive laws re­gard­ing school buses, such as mo­torists must stay put as long are chil­dren are board­ing or departing a bus. It’s a rea­son­able safety pre­cau­tion.

The safety pa­trols and their school ad­vis­ers don’t just go about the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties in a willy-nilly fash­ion — and, yes, they do save lives.

Joe Bed­dick, a re­tired Mont­gomery County Po­lice of­fi­cer, told me about a har­row­ing in­stance.

“A young AAA Safety Pa­trol in Front Royal, Vir­ginia, saw a lit­tle girl drop her school project un­der the school bus,” he said. “She crawled un­der the bus to re­trieve it. The bus driver could not see her and be­gan to pull off. A pa­troller man­aged to pull her to safety.”

In an­other in­stance, Mr. Bed­dick said, a child had a seizure on the bus, “the pa­trol alerted the driver and stayed with the child un­til [first re­spon­ders] ar­rived.”

There’s also the dart ef­fect to keep in mind.

An­other true story: A young­ster’s hat blew off, and the child darted into the street to re­trieve it. A school pa­troller saw the traf­fic sig­nals chang­ing and pulled the child back up onto the curb to safety.

We should be thank­ful that the pa­trols, who are mid­dle-school age and cho­sen by their schools, are steady at the ready.

And those of us in the mid-At­lantic re­gion should be par­tic­u­larly grate­ful. There are more than 600,000 safety pa­trols na­tion­wide, and the mid-At­lantic has more than 90,000, with bet­ter than one-third of them in the D.C.-Mont­gomery County-Prince Ge­orge’s County-Charles County area, said AAA Mid-At­lantic spokesman John Townsend.

D.C. school kids will be back on the bus in two weeks’ time, and Mary­land young­sters start rolling af­ter La­bor Day — and when they do, mo­torists will be out in full force, too.

Mr. Townsend enu­mer­ated the sit­u­a­tion: There are 639,000 ve­hi­cles trips within D.C., and com­muters drive more than 1.3 mil­lion ve­hi­cles in the District daily. And he said, while no one wants to be­lieve it, more than

1.9 mil­lion ve­hi­cles travel around the re­gion ev­ery day.

AAA has one of the most ro­bust school safety pro­grams in the na­tion, said Mr. Bed­dick, and he and Mr. Townsend should know. Mr. Townsend was in the safety pro­gram as a young­ster in Huntsville, Alabama, and Mr. Bed­dick was one in his youth in ru­ral Her­man, Penn­syl­va­nia, and his kids were, too.

We should pay homage to school safety pa­trols, who do good deeds school day af­ter school day.

You never know where such a life­form­ing ex­pe­ri­ence will lead them.

AAA

Get­ting stu­dents safely to and from school is a top pri­or­ity. The AAA School Safety Pa­trol Pro­gram helps en­sure kids can do that. Ush­ers lead kids across in­ter­sec­tions.

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