DARKE COUNTY — Though the days remain long, the weather is hot, and the leaves on the trees are still green, another seasonal milestone fast approaches — school.
Among area public school districts, Bradford kicks off its school year the earliest, with classes beginning August 17. Franklin-Monroe and Versailles classes start August 31, while Ansonia, Arcanum-Butler, Mississinawa Valley and Tri-Village open September 1. Greenville follows on September 2.
With all county schools opening their doors within the next month, motorists should keep their eye out for students who will soon be traveling on sidewalks, streets and roads.
For the Greenville Police Department, student safety on city streets is a matter of great concern.
“We recommend everybody be mindful of the additional pedestrian traffic,” said Greenville Police Chief Dennis Butts. “We advise students to be extra cautious and use sidewalks when they can.”
Butts also advises motorists to keep school opening and closing times in mind, and particularly to watch for buses making stops on city streets to pick up or drop off students.
The National Safety Council (NSC), a nonprofit organization promoting health and safety, says that though children riding aboard school buses are safer than youngsters riding in a passenger vehicle or walking to school, it notes that more children are hurt outside a bus than inside as passengers.
Most of the children injured or killed in bus-related crashes are pedestrians, typically four to seven years old, who are hit by the bus itself or by motorists illegally passing a stopped school bus.
The NSC reminds motorists that on undivided roadways, it is illegal in all 50 states to pass a school bus that is stopped to load or unload passengers.
The 10-foot area around a bus is where children are most likely to be struck. Because of this, motorists who have stopped behind a bus should provide plenty of space to children walking to or from the vehicle.
As it pertains to children commuting to school by foot or on bicycle, the NSC offers the following tips for motorists:
- Drivers should not block the crosswalk when stopped at a red light or waiting to make a turn or stop with a portion of their vehicle over the crosswalk. Blocking the crosswalk forces pedestrians to go around your vehicle and puts them in a dangerous situation.
- In a school zone when a warning flasher or flashers are blinking, drivers must stop to yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a marked crosswalk or at an intersection with no marked crosswalk.
- Always stop when directed to do so by a school patrol sign, school patrol officer or designated crossing guard.
- Children are the least predictable pedestrians and the most difficult to see. Take extra care to look out for children not only in school zones, but also in residential areas, playgrounds and parks.
- Don’t honk your horn, rev your engine or do anything to rush or scare a pedestrian in front of your car, even if you have the legal right of way.
- When passing a bicyclist proceeding in the same direction, do so slowly and leave at least a distance between you and the bicycle of no less than three feet. Maintain this clearance until you have safely passed the bicycle.
- The most common causes of collisions are drivers turning left in front of an oncoming bicycle or turning right, across the path of the bicycle.
- When your vehicle is turning left and there is a bicyclist entering the intersection from the opposite direction, you should wait for the bicyclist to pass before making the turn.
- If your vehicle is turning right and a bicyclist is approaching on the right, let the bicyclist go through the intersection first before making a right turn. Remember to always use your turn signals.
- Watch for bicycle riders turning in front of you without looking or signaling, especially if the rider is a child.
- Take extra precautions in school zones and neighborhood areas where children and teenagers might be riding.
- Watch out for bikes coming out of driveways, from behind parked cars or other obstructions.
- Check side mirrors for bicyclists before opening the door.
Ultimately, safety for children traveling to and from school depends upon responsibility being practiced by both pedestrians and drivers, according to Chief Butts.
“We ask that pedestrians watch out for cars, and cars watch out for pedestrians,” he said. “That would make a better world for all of us,” he said.
Erik Martin may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 937-569-4314.