By Devese “Dee” Ursery
and Pat Pratt
As summer is ending and the new school year is quickly approaching, the streets will be filled with school-aged children either walking to school or to their designated bus stops so school bus safety and traffic safety is paramount.
This week, the Times-Tribune reached out to the police chiefs in the biggest school districts in our coverage area, Collinsville and Triad, to ask their advice for motorists and returning students on the eve of the new school year.
Both Troy Police Chief Chris Wasser and Collinsville Police Chief Steve Evans said with drivers not used to seeing students and buses on the roads for several months, upon opening day caution is key.
“I want to remind drivers to use caution,” Wasser said. “There are several construction projects occurring in the City of Troy that will have an impact on pick up and drop off of kids at several of our schools. Additionally there will be kids walking and riding bikes to and from school in the morning and afternoon, please be aware of your surroundings when driving near children.”
Chief Evans encourages parents to teach their children about watching out for traffic while walking to their bus stop or to school. He gave examples like keeping their heads up and not staring at their cell phones while walking.
“They need to be able to react if a motorist isn’t driving appropriately,” Evans said.
In addition to being aware of students, motorists also need to be aware of buses making frequent stops and not text and drive. Chief Wasser said those are two of the most common traffic offenses the agency enforces during the school year.
“The two main traffic issues related to buses are drivers texting and driving, and drivers running the stop arms on the bus,” Wasser said. “Please remember not to text and drive, and use your hands-free device.”
Evans said the greatest potential for danger to children is at the bus stop and school bus driver’s must remain conscious of that possibility.
“It is important for the driver to survey the area for motorists who are not paying attention or who are driving recklessly prior to letting children off the bus and prior to inviting children from the curb to the bus,” Evans said.
Evans said that although some parents choose to drive their students to the bus stop and wait with them, they need to be mindful of where they park. In some cases, this can create obstructions at intersections which may make it less safe for other motorists or even other students waiting at the bus stop.
“The most common traffic violation enforced during school hours is for school zone speeding violations,” Evans said. “Although not as common, we also have zero tolerance for passing a school bus while loading or unloading students with the stop arm extended.”
In all these instances, the chiefs and law enforcement professionals around the nation urge drivers to use caution and exercise patience. While that may not be easy with the start of school, it is imperative for the safety of all. Officers in both agencies will be out during school times enforcing traffic laws.
“There will be long lines at all of the schools during the first couple of weeks,” Wasser said. “I would ask that the parents, and students be patient when getting dropped off and picked up. The Troy Police Department will be present everyday at the schools and will be assisting with any traffic related issues.”