Staunton Police reminds those sharing the road of safety before school starts

Published: Aug. 3, 2022 at 5:50 PM EDT
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STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) - With many kids in the Valley starting school next week, drivers are asked to pay close attention in school zones and remember laws when it comes to navigating during pick-ups and drop-offs.

Drive slowly through school zones and watch out for school buses. If you think a bus is stopping, slow down to be on the safe side.

Sgt. Butch Shifflett with Staunton Police said safety around school buses is all about paying attention to your surroundings for both drivers and pedestrians.

“If that requires you to leave a few minutes early to make sure you don’t have issues with getting to work late, or getting wherever you’re going late, start a little sooner so that way you can get through the area because the buses will be slowing down traffic at least,” Shifflett said.

He also advises families to make sure children know how to be safe around buses, too. Bus riders should stand back from the road, in case they fall. Wait until the bus is fully stopped to step on, and use handrails when getting on and off.

“Safety is the entire process,” he said.

If families aren’t sold on riding the school bus, Safe Routes to Schools Program Coordinator Steven Garon suggests families walk or bike to school.

“The data on exercise is pretty grim. The data on our obesity rates and our diabetes rates is also pretty grim. This is the easiest way, in my opinion, for people to get exercise is just to be mobile,” Garon said. “Gyms are great, but walking out your front door and going for a half-hour walk is a lot easier.”

In 1969, 48% of students between the ages of 5 and 14 walked or biked to school. In 2009, that was down to 13%.

The Safe Routes to Schools Program teaches families about bike and pedestrian safety.

“Parents, due to concerns for the children, decide that they’d rather drive them to school, which creates long lines of traffic at the school, which actually makes conditions unsafe for people walking or even just getting out of the cars,” Garon said.

For families walking, Garon has tips to stay safe:

  • If there’s a sidewalk, always use it.
  • Always walk facing traffic.
  • Dress to be seen – wear reflective clothing or carry a flashlight.
  • Depending on age and ability, walk with a parent, older sibling, or trusted adult.
  • Know how to cross driveways.

For families biking, he has advice:

  • Wear a properly fitted helmet and know how to put it on.
  • Make sure there’s air in the tires.
  • Make sure the brakes work and know how to use them.
  • Make sure the chain is on.
  • Be aware of safety signals.
  • Learn how to navigate around traffic signs.
  • Be comfortable moving the bike - starting, stopping, turning.

As part of the program, Garon said he’s worked with many new riders.

“When they get it, they get it, and it’s such a beautiful moment because they’re so ecstatic,” Garon said.

Most importantly, Garon said communication is key.

“Have the conversation before you do it with your child, and do it with your child so you can model it for your child,” he said.

To learn more about the Safe Routes to School Program, visit their website or VDOT’s website.

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