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Motorists should use caution around schools
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Now that schools throughout Stanislaus County are back in session, it is important that motorists be extra careful when traveling through and near school zones. There are literally thousands of kids traveling to and from schools in buses and cars, they ride bicycles, skateboards and many travel by foot. The motoring public has a special responsibility to ensure that all of these kids get home safely at the end of the day.

While this column seems to be aimed at the general motoring public and commuters, I am fully aware of how some parents also contribute to the hazards school children face each day in the school environment. Since 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 to traffic gridlock.

We all live busy lives, and the distractions are many, but the safety and well-being of our young people is more important than any kind of texting, a phone call or one's appearance. I urge everyone who has kids to plan ahead and leave more time to drop them off so that no dangerous driving practices come into play. 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 and 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 it is smart to always expect the unexpected.

The police take the safety of children very seriously, and accordingly, there has been, and will be, plenty of enforcement taking place at and near the schools. In Ceres, we have a zero-tolerance enforcement posture for traffic violations committed near schools. However, the best way to prevent these dangers comes in the form of self-discipline and awareness of child safety needs. People just need to pace themselves and get out of the "in-a-hurry" mode and make the kids their top priority. Ask anyone who has ever accidentally struck a child with a car. No matter whose fault the collision was, the sense of guilt and sorrow becomes a life-long burden that never goes away. It all boils down to knowing your priorities and driving according to them.