Children are back in school, drive carefully

THE SEASONS ARE CHANGING or will be soon and one of the seasons coming in is back-to-school season.

It’s a time that’s especially hectic for school children, their parents and their teachers, but it’s a time when all of us should be aware and pay attention – especially when driving.

The streets and roads will be filled with children walking, riding bicycles or riding buses to and from school, which creates more for all drivers to be aware of.

That means not just being aware of the frequent stops and starts school buses make, but also of the children getting on and off the bus.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the greatest risk for children who ride a bus to school is not during their ride on the bus, it’s getting on or off the bus.

To reduce that risk, every driver needs to know and obey school bus signals:

. Flashing yellow lights alert motorists that the school bus is preparing to stop to load or unload passengers.

. Flashing red lights and an extended stop sign at the front of the school bus tell motorists that the bus has stopped to load or unload passengers.

In every state, it is illegal to pass a school bus that is stopped to load or unload passengers, and all require that traffic in both directions on undivided highways stop for students boarding or exiting a school bus.

In Wisconsin, the law requires at least a 20-foot distance between a stopped school bus with red lights flashing and any traffic in either direction on undivided highways.

Bus drivers who see a vehicle violate any of those laws are authorized to report the violation to a law enforcement agency, which may issue a citation. The owner of the vehicle, whether they were driving or not, is responsible for paying the fine.

For students who walk to school, drivers need to be aware of them along streets and roads as well.

Drivers must yield to students – and any pedestrian – who started crossing an intersection or crosswalk on a walk signal or a green light if there is no walk signal, who are crossing within a marked or unmarked crosswalk at an intersection where there are no traffic lights or control signals, or when a vehicle is crossing a sidewalk or entering an alley or driveway. Drivers may not overtake and pass any vehicle that has stopped for pedestrians at an intersection or crosswalk.

When drivers are passing bicycles traveling in the same direction, they must leave a safe distance of no less than three feet clearance and must maintain that clearance until they have safely passed the bicycle.

It should be common sense and courtesy to follow these laws, but for those who don’t violations could result in fines from $175 to $236 – plus costs – and possible demerit points on their driver’s license.

It requires a little patience, caution and attention on the part of all drivers, but it’s worth it for the sake of the children.

At issue:
Back-to-school season
Bottom line:
Drive safely, attentively

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