Back to school safety

Published 7:00 am Friday, August 4, 2017

Back to School is upon us.  With that being in mind it’s very important to remember the safety of the kids on their way to and from school.  School days bring congestion, buses are picking up kids, parents are trying to drop their kids off before work, and kids are walking or riding bikes. It’s never more important for drivers to slow down and pay attention than when kids are present, especially before and after school.

Schools often have specific drop off procedures for the school year.  Make sure to know them for the safety of the kids. More children are hit by cars near schools than any other location.  Don’t double park, it blocks visibility for other children and vehicles. Don’t load or unload children across the street from the school.

We must share the roads with pedestrians. The following are precautions to be aware of to help keep the children safe:

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• Don’t block the crosswalk when stopped at a red light or waiting to make a turn, forcing pedestrians to go around you; this could put them in the path of moving traffic

• In a school zone when flashers are blinking, stop and yield to pedestrians crossing the crosswalk or intersection

• Always stop for a school patrol officer or crossing guard signaling traffic

• Take extra care to look out for children in school zones, near playgrounds and parks, and in all residential areas

• Don’t honk or rev your engine to scare a pedestrian, even if you have the right of way

• Never pass a vehicle stopped for pedestrians

• Always use extreme caution to avoid striking pedestrians wherever they may be, no matter who has the right of way

When following a school bus allow a greater following distance. It will give you more time to stop once the yellow lights start flashing. It is illegal to pass a school bus that has stopped to load or unload children. If the yellow or red lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended, traffic must stop. The area 10 feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for children; stop far enough back to allow them space to safely enter and exit the bus. Be alert; children often are unpredictable, and they tend to ignore hazards and take risks

On most roads bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as vehicles, but bikes can be hard to see. Children riding bicycles to school creates special problems for drivers because usually they are not able to determine traffic conditions. When passing a bicyclist, proceed in the same direction slowly, and leave 3 feet between your car and the cyclist. When turning left and a bicyclist is approaching in the opposite direction, wait for the rider to pass. If you’re turning right and a bicyclists is approaching from behind on the right, let the rider go through the intersection first, and always use your turn signals. Watch for bike riders turning in front of you without looking or signaling; children especially have a tendency to do this. Be extra vigilant in school zones and residential neighborhoods. Watch for bikes coming from driveways or behind parked cars and check side mirrors before opening your door.

The school zones in Picayune are clearly marked with signs and some with both flashing lights and signs. The hour of operation for school zones is 7:30 am to 4:30 pm. Picayune Police Officers will be out enforcing the school zones throughout the school year.  Our top priority is to ensure that our children get to and from school safely.

By Major Chad Dorn, Picayune Police Department