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OPINION – Kids. They are all around us. It is back to school time and they are ready and (un)willing to return to school. This means there will be more traffic, school buses, confused and worried parents, and the need to be extra careful in and around not only school buses, but also around the schools in general.

Here are some things to consider as we head back to school. The first days of school are going to be hectic.

Kids need help keeping safe, behaving and following the rules for getting on and off the bus, crossing the streets by the crossing guard or the designated school crossing area (or where they decide to cross), and parents and drivers need help too.

Traffic rules and safety

Traffic is regulated by the following:

  • Ordinances
    • Federal
    • State
    • County
    • Municipal

We need to know the general rules for traffic safety involving school zones, school buses and even our local ordinances.

Here are some general traffic safety rules to remember:

1. Be aware of the different types of vehicles

There are big yellow buses, white buses, small buses, special education buses, daycare vans, and regular vehicles transporting children to and from school.

2. Patience is crucial when in school traffic

When in traffic it is important to be patient. A school bus driver is responsible for the safety of the children in their care, but we also need to recognize that cars driving around school buses is also very important for the safety of our community.

3. Buses move more slowly for different reasons

When you see a bus, remember that it may be going slower than unusual because they may be looking for kids on the sidewalk, by the pickup area, or handling an incident currently going on in the bus. The bus driver has to stop at railroad crossings and at designated areas.

4. School bus signals – how to read them

Flashing lights and extendable stop sign

  • When you see flashing lights on the bus, be ready to stop.
  • Yellow flashing lights are a warning that the bus is coming to a stop and will be activating the red lights.
  • Red flashing lights require you to stop even if the stop sign has not been extended out. Do not pass a stopped or stopping bus.
    • Remember that red lights may not flash in:
      • School bus loading areas where the school bus is off the traveled area
      • A residence or business district where passengers are loaded or unloaded where a sidewalk and curb are laid on both sides of the road unless otherwise required by a municipal ordinance (such as the one in Sturtevant).

Quick review:

STOP

  • When the stop sign is extended from the school bus and/or the red flashing lights are activated:
    • If you are traveling in the same direction as the school bus, you must stop.
    • If you are traveling in the opposite direction as the school bus, you must also stop
    • Even if there are more than two lanes between you and the bus…

DON’T STOP

  • If there is a divided median and you are traveling in the opposite direction of the school bus. (A divided median literally means that there is a permanent structure preventing the vehicles from crossing from one side to the other.)

5. Slow down in school zones

Crossing zone without a guard

When you are in the school zone remember that you must slow down to the stated speed. Let’s face it, kids can come into the street anywhere, even if there is a designated crossing area.

Crossing zone with a guard

There will possibly be school crossing guards. Follow their directions.

6. Load and unload students from your vehicle in designated areas

When you are loading or unloading your child, please unload and pick up in the designated areas. When this is not done it creates a huge safety problem with the buses and the overall safety on the road. You may find that during the first few days of school, parents will be confused about where to go, and where to drop off and pick up, so be extra careful. Follow the directions of the school staff and the safety monitors.

Final reminders for the kids

7. When crossing the streets:

  • They must follow the directions of the school crossing guard
  • Cross only in designated areas
  • Do not run across the street
  • Look to the left, the right, and the left again before crossing the street
  • If they are crossing the street in front of the school bus, cross at least 10 feet in front of the bus where they can:
    • Make eye contact with the driver
    • Have enough space to see if a car is coming around the bus

Remember that kids may be running around the bus and may not be aware that there is a car in the lane next to them. Always be careful around a school bus. Let’s keep our kids safe!

Henry Perez brings you Snapshots of Safety with the Racine County Eye. – Credit: Loren Lamoreaux

Henry Perez is a retired School Resource Officer and traffic school instructor for the National Safety Council who has trained over 30 thousand people in his career.

More in Back to School

Racine County Eye Snapshot series


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