Published on August 12th, 2013 | by NSB Observer0
A Back-to-School Safety Message from the Sheriff
Beginning next Monday, August 19th, motorists, school children, school buses and crossing guards will once again be sharing the roadways in Volusia County. With the added traffic and congestion that always accompanies the return of the school year, even a mere moment of distraction or inattention by driver or pedestrian can have deadly consequences. That’s why Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson and Volusia County School Superintendent Dr. Margaret Smith are teaming up to remind the public to be cautious and obey all safety rules. After all, an extra dose of vigilance just may prevent a tragedy, said Sheriff Johnson. “Everyone should put safety first as they go about their daily routines,” the Sheriff said. “But we all need to be extra alert and exercise care, patience and good judgment when school is in session. It’s that time of year when we all need that little reminder in order to help avoid a preventable tragedy.”
Sheriff Johnson and Dr. Smith have strengthened their continuing school safety partnership, partly in response to accidents in Volusia County that have injured more than 50 students in the past two school years who were on their way to or from campus. More than half of the students injured were middle school age. To address the issue, the School District created a safety committee that’s working to implement pedestrian and bicycle safety programs at all grades levels, with an emphasis on middle schools.
The School District will continue to educate students about safety, but is also relying heavily on parents to help drive the message home. “Parents are urged to discuss safety rules with their children who walk or bike to school or the bus stop,” said Dr. Smith. “Students may think a driver sees them, but if the driver is distracted or the student darts in front of the vehicle, the result can be disastrous. It can be equally dangerous if a student is distracted, including wearing headphones or texting while walking.”
Parents and school children won’t encounter any changes in traffic patterns, speed limits or crossing guard locations this school year. However, deputies will be increasing enforcement efforts this week in advance of the start of the school year, with particular emphasis on speeding and seat belt violations.
Once school starts next week, deputies will be on the look-out for violators passing stopped school buses and also will be strictly enforcing reduced speeds and safety rules in school crossings.
Whether children are walking, riding a bicycle, taking the bus or being driven to school, Sheriff Johnson and Dr. Smith are urging parents to use this next week to discuss safety issues with their children and help familiarize them with their route to school. The Sheriff’s Office and School District also are teaming up to circulate the following safety tips:
· If you drive your children to school, drop them off and pick them up as close to the school as possible. If the school has a drop-off area, be sure to use it.
· Drive defensively. Always anticipate the possibility that a small child may dart in front of your vehicle. Be prepared to stop at all times.
· Leave a few minutes early and plan for extra drive time to get to your destination.
· Slow down and watch out for school zones and children walking or biking to school or congregating near bus stops. Also, be alert for student drivers.
· Obey all posted speed limits.
· Be especially careful in areas with parked vehicles on the side of the road. Children crossing between vehicles may be difficult for you to see
· Remember that buses will be making frequent stops. It’s not only dangerous to students, but it’s against the law to pass a school bus while it’s stopped on the roadway picking up or dropping off students. And this applies to traffic going in both directions — unless the road is divided by a raised barrier or an unpaved median at least five feet wide.
· When turning at an intersection, be sure to yield to pedestrians and cyclists.
· If your child is walking to school or a bus stop, plan a safe route and make sure your child knows the route and can navigate it safely. Choose the most direct route with the fewest street crossings. If a school crossing guard is available, be sure that your child crosses at that location. If your child is young or is walking to a new school, walk the route with them beforehand and continue to walk with them for the first week until they’re comfortable with the route.
For Students Who Ride the Bus
· Stay out of the street while waiting for the bus.
· Wait for the bus to come to a complete stop and the doors open before approaching the bus from the curb.
· Make sure you remain in clear view of the bus driver. Never walk behind the bus.
· Look both ways before crossing the street to get on the bus.
· After getting off the bus, look both ways and then move immediately onto the sidewalk and out of traffic.
For Walkers/Bike Riders
· For bike riders, wear a properly-fitted helmet at all times. Research shows that this simple act can reduce the risk of head injury by up to 85 percent. Also, riders should use a bike that’s the right size for them and make sure that they don’t have any loose clothing, drawstrings or shoelaces.
· Bike riders should ride on the right, in the same direction as traffic, and use appropriate hand signals. Bicyclists also should respect traffic lights and stop signs.
· Walk or bike with a friend. It’s safer that way.
· Walk on sidewalks where available.
· Always cross at intersections.
· Both bikers and walkers should wear bright clothing to make them more visible to drivers.
· To avoid distractions, bikers and walkers shouldn’t use a cell phone or headphones.