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School’s in: Drivers, pedestrians stay alert, be smart

With the new school year underway, now is the time for defensive driving of the first order. Assume the worst, plan for every eventuality involving school children.
With the new school year underway, now is the time for defensive driving of the first order. Assume the worst, plan for every eventuality involving school children. - The Chronicle Herald file photo.

Have you noticed a difference in traffic? Perhaps you’ve seen more young people on or near the road, maybe some big yellow buses?

School’s back in session and that brings a new set of challenges for drivers as they try to carry on with life and travel while coping with this new — for some — situation.

It’s amazing how many drivers fail to take into account the changes in the traffic environment brought about by this one event — school. And it’s frightening how many drive as if inconvenienced by these interlopers.

Now that school is back in session, there are a number of things to look for, some of them new, some have just become a higher priority.

School speed zone restrictions are back in effect — and in some jurisdictions, their hours have been expanded to include those times before and after regular school hours, when other activities may be taking place at the facility.

Cross walks take on renewed significance — especially during the morning and afternoon when they may contain errant youngsters trying to catch a friend or just trying to catch up because they are late. In either case, they are likely not paying attention to the traffic.

Traditionally, crosswalk guards have been posted at these locations to help youngsters survive.

However, financial cutbacks in many communities mean the crosswalk that was manned last year may not be this time around. Eyes up, speed down.

School buses are on the road and, whether moving or stopped to pick up or drop off their charges, they are a significant factor in the traffic scene.

The biggest problem bus drivers face are speeding motorists too impatient to wait while the red lights are on and children are passing in front of the bus into traffic.

In both cases an alert motorist will see the scene developing in time to take appropriate action.

Another point of considerable concern to safety experts is that area near schools where folks pick up and drop off students.

The same parent who is concerned about the safety and welfare of their own child — will often drive or park in a manner that puts other children at risk.

The problems occur when parents try to park too close to the school, or crosswalk, blocking both the view and safe passage.

These same drivers are often seen making illegal U-turns to either get to the pick-up spot or when leaving.

In addition to being oblivious to no-parking signs, many will also not think twice about blocking a driveway or even a crosswalk.

If the weather is inclement — such behaviour is even more likely — and common.

Pedestrians. Remember the youngest of the school-bound children are often both the most excited and the most inexperienced.

These first few weeks of school before they fall into a pattern, learn the rules and become familiar with the routes that are the most dangerous.

During this time they are likely to jump off a curb into traffic without thinking. These little people are distracted and forget the safety information drilled into them by parents, teachers, crossing guards, bus drivers and others. They can and will dart into traffic on a whim.

Another related problem, especially with older school-goers, is headphones. These people are all but oblivious to your presence and incapable of hearing a horn or other warning.

Each year we hear of a terrible tragedy somewhere when a youngster is struck by a vehicle. Whether they were at fault or not is of little solace, if you were the driver involved.

And lest you think I’m picking on motorists, what about those parents who take their children by the hand across a street — between crosswalks. What a great way to teach ignorance of the law.

Now is the time for defensive driving of the first order. Assume the worst, plan for every eventuality involving school children.

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