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Drivers must use extreme caution around schools

POSTED August 8, 2012 8:26 a.m.
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Now that the summer break is over, public schools locally will be opening during mid-August. With these school openings, our communities will have to adjust to the traffic congestion and increased safety risks for students as they travel to and from school. Traffic safety around school facilities while schools are in session is also an important consideration.

Motorists driving through the neighborhoods of schools should be mentally prepared for delays and the frustrations of those busy areas. Everyone should be on the lookout for kids on foot because they are smaller than adults, thus more difficult to see. Kids on bicycles and skateboards are common and they don't always obey the rules of the road. It is common for kids to dart out from between parked cars, so motorists should always expect the unexpected.

Students, especially the younger ones, need motorists to look out for their safety. Children may not be attentive to traffic and in general and might make mistakes that could get them seriously injured or killed. School buses loading and unloading kids is also a risky situation, which is why the law prohibits the passing of school buses when they display flashing red lights. Police officers are not likely to give just a warning to motorists who illegally pass buses; in fact, enforcement of this particular law is a high priority for us.

For kids who walk to school, it is important that they do so in groups of three or more, and whenever possible, that they be accompanied by a parent. Parents can also search the Megan's Law website for the addresses of sex offenders who might live along the route along which kids walk or ride bicycles to and from school. And in this same context, kids should know what to do when approached by a stranger. In my view, there is virtually no occasion when a stranger should be talking to a child, and if that kind of behaviour is observed, the police should be called without any delay whatsoever. Be sure to get as much descriptive information about the suspicious person as possible, along with information on any associated vehicle.

The police take school zone safety very seriously, and accordingly, our enforcement of the traffic laws there will be rigorous. Most all violations occur because parents and other motorists are in a hurry and are usually under pressure to get to work or to take care of other parental responsibilities. The only way to ensure safety is to drive with extreme caution and to simply expect delays and congestion when in the school zone areas. Plan ahead, eliminate driving distractions and keep in mind, at all times, how severe the next tragedy might be. The police will help with their enforcement efforts and we will not hesitate to provide strict enforcement in the school zone areas.
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