The following editorial appeared Thursday in The Telegraph, Alton, Ill.:
That almost-audible sigh of relief is a collective reminder from parents across Illinois that school is back in session.
It also means motorists need to be especially vigilant and watch for children still under the spell of summer’s carefree spirit.
Hundreds of students from preschool through high school will fill the streets each morning and afternoon once again. Some will be on foot, others on bicycle and many more will be riding school buses.
The problem is that schoolchildren are not always predictable in their actions and adults have to be extra-mindful as a result. This is especially critical in school zones, where buses are loading and unloading.
Drivers, watch for flashing yellow or red lights on school buses. Yellow is a warning the bus is preparing to stop to load or unload children; red signals the bus has stopped and children are getting on or off. It is illegal in most every situation to pass a bus that has stopped to let children on or off and foolishly tempting fate to speed up when the lights flash yellow simply to try to beat the red.
The National Safety Council says most of the children who are seriously injured or killed each year at 4 to 7 years old and are struck by someone illegally passing a stopped school bus.
Keep your mind on what’s going on around and put the cell phone down (they’re illegal now in most school zones anyway).
If your child walks to school, plan the route in advance and keep it simple. Whenever it is possible, use crosswalks with a traffic signal or a crossing guard and try to keep the number of crossings required to a minimum. Avoid letting younger children walk alone, and remind them to look both ways before crossing a street.
Bicycle riders, remember the same laws apply to you as to someone driving a car, which means stopping at stop signs and signaling turns. Drivers, remember children on bikes are not always able to judge traffic conditions properly and require motorists to be on the defensive — especially around driveways or parked cars.
Although riding the school bus is statistically the safest way to get to and from school each day, remind children that once on board they should sit down and face the front. Teach children about the danger zone of a school bus — the 10-foot perimeter in which injury is most likely to occur because of limited visibility — and what to do in an emergency.
No one likes thinking about the worst, but talking about crucial issues before they arise can make safety a school-day companion.
©2012 The Telegraph (Alton, Ill.)
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