Back-to-school driving safety

With school ready to resume on Monday in Pine Bluff, it’s good to review some safety tips for anyone who may be driving near a school.

First, remember that traffic is going to be heavier, especially if you drive in the hour before school starts and after it ends. Remember also that reduced speed zones near schools again will be activated. The best advice is to allow extra time, slow down and pay attention.

School buses will be back on the street, and the Arkansas Department of Education reminds drivers that is is illegal to pass a stopped school bus when its red lights are flashing, the stop-arm is extended and the bus is loading and unloading students. According to ADE, nearly 7,000 school buses transport more than 250,000 students to and from school and related activities daily. Penalties for passing a stopped bus were increased in 2005 by legislation known as Isaac’s Law.

Isaac Brian, an elementary student in the Bryant schools, darted into traffic after getting off his bus, as young children will do. He was struck and killed. That’s not an accident that only happens to other people and to other people’s children.

Drivers should be especially careful to drive defensively when they are near schools. As parents and children try to signal to each other, there’s a good chance they’ve lost sight of other children and other drivers. Children are impulsive and may start out in one direction and suddenly dart in another. Drive as if you are the only one who’s really paying attention, and you won’t be far wrong.

Parents driving children to school should remember that even if their children are too young to have learner’s permits, they are always observing and absorbing the driving habits of their parents. They notice if their parents are polite or irritable, careful or negligent. When the time comes, they will drive as they observed their parents driving.

Finally, and we can’t say this enough, put down the cell phone. Sure, quick calls and texts can be tempting for parents and children who are running late or slightly out of place for some reason. But unless the car is in park, don’t use the phone. You are transporting precious cargo and so is everyone around you. Let’s have a year without the pain of auto accidents near a school. The choice is in your hands.