Drive responsibly this school year

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Next week, thousands of children across Barry County will return to area school districts. As these kids worry about how strict their new teachers will be, if they will have the same friends and how much homework will be assigned over the weekend, they will not be thinking about the hundreds of vehicles that travel through area school zones each day.

Even though parents teach their child to look both ways before crossing the street and to use crosswalks whenever possible, responsibility for keeping these kids safe on roadways lies with each driver who climbs behind the wheel.

During the summer, we often forget the extra 10 minutes that are required to get home or to work when school buses return to the roadways. Instead of getting annoyed when driving behind one of these big yellow vehicles, we should use the sighting of a school bus as a reminder to slow down and watch for children.

AAA Missouri has released the following list of tips to help keep roadways safer for children as they return to school this fall:

* When in school zones, watch for reduced speed limit signs that become effective when classes are in session.

* Remember the law about stopping before passing or over-taking a school bus that is stopped to pick up or drop off children.

* Watch for youngsters riding bicycles.

* If you are a parent, help your child map out his or her safest way to school and remember that traffic hazards near schools multiply when children are dropped off and picked up in family cars.

* Remember that school traffic controls, such as stop signs, traffic signals, adult crossing guards and safety patrols, are now operating. Our summer driving habits must change to look for and obey these special controls.

* Anticipate the actions of youngsters and be ready for anything by reducing speed in areas where children are present.

We commend area cities and school districts that provide crossing guards and other safety measures to help ensure students get to and from school safely each day, but we hope drivers will not solely rely on these safety measures.

Please put down your cell phone and cup of coffee as you drive to work or to the store next week and throughout the school year. Many young children who will be walking to and from school will have very little experience in dealing with traffic and some will be going to school for the very first time this year. It is our responsibility to watch out for them.

Lindsay Reed