With many students returning to school this week, parents and other adults who sit behind the wheel of a vehicle will soon have a few more things to pay attention to while driving.
The flashing lights alerting drivers to school zones, crosswalks, and buses picking up or dropping students off will be back in session this week, and drivers should be aware of more vehicles or people walking near area schools.
Here are five road related rules and tips to know as the school year gets under way.
1. Drop your speed and phone for school zones
Most school zones have a posted speed limit of 25 miles per hour or less, prohibit the use of wireless devices, and are active during the morning and afternoon hours. Zones are marked with permanent signage and have flashing lights when active.
Violators often pay enhanced fees when cited for an infraction in a school zone.
“We want everyone to be aware that kids will be in the area and to go ahead and slow down now, so we don’t have to pull you over and have any discussions on the side of the road,” Sherman Police Sgt. Brett Mullen said.
2. Slow down or stop for school buses
On undivided roadways, all drivers — including those in oncoming lanes — must stop for any school bus that displays a stop sign or flashing red lights. Oncoming drivers are not required to stop only when the road is divided by a barrier or a median.
Drivers traveling behind a bus must always stop.
“If a bus turns its yellow lights on, or its red lights on, you need to slow down and stop until the bus is done loading or unloading students,” Mullen said. “You can proceed once the lights stop flashing, but if you try to go before then, it’s a violation of the law.”
3. Always buckle up
Denison Police Lt. Mike Eppler said students and families traveling to and from school by car should always remember to wear their seat belts. Eppler said while the ride between school and home may be short or just through the neighborhood, drivers must make sure each passenger is properly seated and protected.
“Depending on their age, make sure they’re in an appropriate car seat or booster seat,” he said. “All kids need to be buckled up and secure — each and everyone of them. Don’t get in the car and let the fact that you’re in a hurry lead you to to make unsafe decisions, and don’t forget to buckle up yourself.”
4. Walking to school
Students walking to and from school are advised to always walk with a friend and to stay out of the street as much as possible. Crosswalks and crossing guards provide the safest routes when crossing streets.
“Always walk on a sidewalk if there’s one available,” Eppler said. “If not, you need to walk up on the curb, or as close to the curb as you can get, and face oncoming traffic. And if you’re crossing the street, stop and look both ways to make sure there are no cars coming.”
5. Biking to school
Of all the students returning to school, those who ride or roll to campus are encouraged to always wear a helmet and to stay on the sidewalk when they can. If bike riders have to get in the road, Eppler encouraged them to go with the flow of traffic, follow the traffic laws, and stay aware of their surroundings.
“They need to know that they are bound by the same rules as any car,” Eppler said. “You can’t just ride through stop signs and red lights too. It’s a serious safety issue.”
Drew Smith is the crime and emergency reporter for the Herald Democrat. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.