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Drivers Should Be Extra Cautious During School Year

Watch Out for School Buses, School Zones


Parents typically do a great job of preparing their child for school throughout the year with appropriate clothes, necessary supplies, and even the perfect backpack. But one area that is often lacking, transportation experts say, is child safety driving awareness around school zones, school buses, and child care centers.

Child safety should be the first and foremost consideration when determining how a child is dropped off and picked up from school or daycare. Yet the very parent who is most tedious about exercising safety precautions around their own child is often the first to zoom off from the curb after making the safe drop-off, and potentially endangering other children in their haste to leave.

Educators have a challenge at the beginning of every school year, and rely on parents to partner with them to ensure children arrive and depart safely from school every day. Daycare centers or pre-schools (or any facility providing care to young children) indicate the same concerns. Motorists are so worried about their own child's safety and about being on-time for school and work, that they commit safety infractions afterward. School officials report double-parking, speeding through school zones, not being on the lookout for children darting between cars or careening off their bicycles, or even committing a U-turn on a two-way street to turn the car into the direction they want to go.

Daycare centers face the very same issues, as parents return to a school-year work schedule, and are often trying to get both school-aged children to their campus on time and then drop-off a younger child at a child care setting before going to work. The extra drop-offs and fall routine add stress, time management issues, and as a result, child safety concerns to boot.

Parents should check with their child's school or child care provider to learn child safety procedures and routines. By the same token, educators and providers should take extra precautions and initiatives to familiarize parents with child safety tips and guidelines. Each year, tragedies are reported of children getting injured or even tragically killed by darting between cars, not using a cross-walk, or motorists simply not being observant enough.

What should parents do now for child safety this school year?
    * Familiarize yourself with school or provider drop-off and pick-up practices and then be sure you always follow them. One of the biggest complaints by school officials is that parents find a reason to be exception to the rule. If the curb says "No stopping, standing or parking at any time," that means for everyone. If children are required to use designated cross walks, don't walk your child across the middle of a street just because you're holding her hand. If traffic is supposed to be one way at designated times, be prepared to change your traffic pattern. And, if an area is designated for teacher parking only, then don't grab a space to drop off your child because you think it's just for "a couple of minutes."

    * Discuss the rules with your child and practice with younger ones. If possible, take your child to the drop-off area and "practice" the procedure at an off-peak time. Have your child wear his backpack (if required) and walk him through what to look for, what to do, and what not to do. If crossing guards are utilized, explain their purpose and how they must wait for approval to cross. Younger children understand best by actually "doing" a routine instead of just being told about it. Familiarity and then repetition are the best guidelines for ensuring child safety all school year long.

    * Resist the urge to speed or make any traffic rules exception because you are running late. Whipping your car around, getting your child to dash out of the car to reach the classroom before the school bell rings, or encouraging a "drop-and-dash" drop-off is the recipe for disaster in terms of child safety. You would rather your child receive a tardy notice than to be in an accident.

    * Know all traffic rules concerning school zones and traffic flows. Remember, ignorance of the law is not an excuse. Drive your pattern now and familiarize yourself with the various speed zones. Be aware of which side of the car your child sits, and consider positioning her to the side most convenient for exiting. If your child is in a "drop" situation, see if the child seat or booster seat is something he can put on or off safely; the same holds true for lap belts and shoulder harnesses.

    * Refrain from using your cell phone, palm, or any other distraction while around school zones. This common-sense advice really applies whenever a motorist is behind the wheel, but especially when in a driving situation around young children and their perhaps spontaneous actions.

See general child school safety tips on next page.

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