August marks the the beginning of a new school year. City streets become active with buses, young motorists and parents taking their children to school. The early slow morning traffic of summer ends, and the backpack bustling begins.
More buses operating on the roadway means slower traffic and children crossing our streets. It’s important to remain alert, especially this time of the year.
Buses use yellow flashing lights to alert motorists to an upcoming stop. Red flashing lights, and an extended stop sign, alert motorists that the bus has stopped and children are exiting or loading the bus. A safety arm may extend from the front of the bus to position children away from the vehicle so as to be readily seen. The extended stop sign requires all motorists on an undivided roadway to stop.
Be alert. Children can be unpredictable. Children walking to or from their bus stop are usually comfortable with their surroundings. Sometimes this means they are more likely to ignore hazards, fail to look both ways when crossing the street, or perhaps not even hear your vehicle coming because they’re using headphones.
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Some students elect to ride their bikes to school. Bicycles have the same rights and responsibilities as other roadway users and share the same lane, but bicycles can be hard to see. Children and young adults riding bicycles present a special problem, as they do not yet know the variables involved in operating a motor vehicle. When passing a bicyclist, allow yourself enough room to compensate for extra movement on part of the bike. Slow down until you have safely passed the bicycle.
Early morning motorists will also encounter our newer drivers going to school. While legally licensed, they often lack experience in operating in difficult weather conditions such as heavy rain and some of the early frosts and snow. When approaching a four-way stop at a crowded intersection, a safe rule for all drivers is to make eye contact with the other motorists.
While it may not necessarily betray your intention to proceed through the intersection, it does alert you to the state of awareness of the other driver. It’s important to treat young motorists with the same care and attention as you would other motorists. Maintain a respectable distance while following, and be attentive.
By using sound judgment and responsible driving, you can help keep our roadways safe.
Sgt. Chris Smith is traffic safety unit supervisor for the Gladstone Police Department.
Tips for drivers and students
Walking to school
Walk with your child at first to make sure he or she knows the route and can do it safely.
Be realistic. Because small children are impulsive and less cautious around traffic, carefully consider whether your child is ready to walk to school without adult supervision.
Consider starting a “walking school bus,” in which an adult accompanies neighborhood children walking to school.
Bright-colored clothing will make your child more visible to drivers.
Using the bus
Wait for the bus to stop before approaching it from the curb.
Do not move around on the bus.
Check to see that no other traffic is coming before crossing the street.
Always remain in clear view of the bus driver.
Always board and exit the bus at designated, safe locations.
Don’t text or talk on your cellphone. Obey traffic laws and speed limits.
Be alert for school zones with reduced speed limits. Enforcement will be heavy.
Watch for buses and for children gathering near bus stops. They may dart into the street. Stop for the bus’s red flashing lights and an extended stop arm.
Watch for children walking in the street, especially where there are no sidewalks.
When backing out of a driveway or leaving a garage, watch for children walking or biking to school.
| Liberty Police Department