Children First: School Zone Safety

By: Danielle Banks
By: Danielle Banks

Local law enforcement gathered recently in an effort to keep children safe. Officers and other city officials want to get the word out about school zone safety.

While the officials didn't reveal any new laws, they did stress the importance of obeying the current ones. They simply want to remind you to use extra caution on the roads when school buses are around and put children first.

"Law enforcement has set a goal for zero traffic related crashes or injuries in the 2002-2003 school year and we need your help while on the roadways," said Harrisonburg police officer Greg Deeds.

So what can you do?

"You must stop anytime you approach a stopped bus on the roadway or at any intersection when the red lights are flashing unless there is an actual physical barrier between you and the bus," said Harrisonburg police officer D.J. Albertson.

A $250 fine will go to the registered owner of any vehicle reported owner of any vehicle reported passing a stopped school bus.

"If you're the owner of the car, you have to come into court and explain to us or give us a reason to believe that you weren't driving or you could be penalized for a violation involving your vehicle," Albertson said.

Officials said the matter won't taken lightly in court either.

"We prosecute to the fullest extent of the law on these cases because we do believe that children have the right to be safe in their transport to and from school," said commonwealth attorney Marsha Garst.

Speeding in a school zone or failing to yield to a pedestrian crossing the road are other important issues.

"Even if the vehicle has a green traffic light, they must be cautious to all pedestrians either crossing at intersections or on crosswalks. A pedestrian should remember they cannot enter a roadway against a walk light," Albertson said.

Officials said your best bet is easier than you may think.

"Slow down, leave more time to get to your destinations especially during the mornings and afternoons when children are on or near the roadways and we want to ensure the safety of our children in the communities," Deeds said.

National Bus Safety Week is the third week in October.

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Safety Tips For Children:

  • When you get off, take five giant steps away from the bus, out of the danger zone.

  • Cross in front of the bus, and make sure you maintain eye contact with the driver.

  • Never go back for anything and never bend down near or under the bus.

Safety Tips For Parents:

  • Assure your children you won't get mad if they don't go back for a jacket they've left on the bus, or school work they've dropped under a wheel.

  • Encourage them to sit quietly in their seat and follow the driver's instructions on bus safety.

      Safety Tips For Motorists:

      • Stop when the bus's warning lights are flashing, or the stop arm comes out.

      • Share the road with the yellow bus.

      General Facts

      • School buses are one of the safest forms of transportation in the nation - nearly 2,000 times safer than the family car.

      • The reality of school bus safety is that more children are hurt outside a bus than inside one.

      • The child who bends over to retrieve a dropped school paper, or who walks too close to the bus while crossing the street, needs to be aware that every yellow school bus is surrounded by a danger zone.

      Source: www.nhtsa.dot.gov (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Web site) contributed to this report.


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