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Drive hypervigilantly near schools
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School grades 1-12 throughout this county will be back in session starting mid-August, so now is a good time to think ahead for student safety reasons. School zones require motorists and children alike to exercise a lot of caution. One need only recall (as if anyone forgot!) the awful tragedy of Feb. 9, when five girls walking near Mae Hensley Junior High School in Ceres were struck by an errant motorist. One of the girls died at the scene, while the others all suffered varying degrees of injuries. The sorrow and emotional damage of that event will stay with the victims' families and members of this community for many years to come. It was a very low point in the history of Ceres, and because of it, I am particularly motivated to emphasize the importance of school traffic safety for this coming school year. The motoring public has a special responsibility to ensure that all of these kids get home safely at the end of the day.

Everyday that school is in session, there are literally thousands of kids traveling to and from schools in buses and cars. They ride bicycles, skateboards and many travel by foot, and regardless of their means of travel, they are all vulnerable.

I also drive past these schools everyday, I see (and hear complaints from others), especially in the mornings, about parents hurrying to the school site. Some parents drive too fast for the conditions, they drop their kids off in the middle of the road, make unsafe U-turns and turn without signaling, some weave in and out of traffic and many fail to completely stop at stop signs. These problems are amplified with parents talking on the cell phone, eating food, drinking coffee, applying make-up and doing other unsafe things while driving. Dropping kids off in the middle of the street is, perhaps, one of the biggest problems because it is extremely unsafe for the child and, at the same time, it can lead to traffic gridlock.

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. School buses that are picking up or dropping off kids are legally protected during those times.

When a school bus is stopped and displays flashing red lights, motorists must stop. The police will not give violators of this law warnings - it is an automatic citation that carries a hefty fine. In some instances, if a motorist has a near miss or where their actions are particularly dangerous, they could be charged with reckless driving.

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.