Little Elm Journal > News
Tips for back-to-school safety
By Sgt. Steve Garst, L.C.C.
There is a day each year that many parents look forward to with the same eager anticipation that kids do for Christmas. Ironically, that same day, many kids look forward to it with the same eager anticipation as going to the dentist. (Sorry dentists Ė no offense) That day is the first day of school. Here are a few tips to make that day safer for everyone and hopefully reduce aggravation and frustration in the process.
First of all, remember that on that day, and to some extent the few that immediately follow, traffic will be especially heavy and congested. Couple that with the narrow roadways in many areas, highway construction added on top of that and the lack of parking and driveway areas at many school campuses and you have a recipe for trouble. Be prepared for long lines at multiple locations. Be prepared to sit through a light change, especially turning left, for way more than one light rotation. In short, plan ahead. Give yourself plenty of extra time to reach your destination, drop off your child and then allow more time to get out of the congested area.
Be courteous to other drivers. Remember they all have schedules too and to a great extent, have the same goals as you Ė get their child to school and home safely and then be off to their own businesses, jobs, home or other destinations. If someone in oncoming traffic needs to turn left, allow them to turn in front of you, if it is safe to do so. If multiple cars need to turn across traffic, other drivers simply allowing every other oncoming car to turn would allow traffic to flow much more smoothly in both directions. Drivers would not be as likely to speed up and then have to slam on brakes sometimes causing a crash. If it werenít so potentially dangerous, it is almost amusing to watch selfish, impatient drivers cut in front of others just to be next in line, cutting everyone else off, including themselves, in the process and effectively grid locking traffic in all directions. If nothing else, remember that it is against the law to block a roadway or intersection.
Remember too that cutting across commercial parking lots or private property to avoid a traffic control device (i.e. avoid congestion) is also against the law and you will be cited if caught. Two of the more flagrant locations around town are the businesses and parking lots on either side of Lobo Lane at Eldorado and the commercial parking lots that surround the intersection of FM 423 and Eldorado. Not only is it against the law, it is extremely dangerous to pedestrian shoppers who may inadvertently step in front of a vehicle illegally cutting across the parking lot.
Pay attention to the school zone flashing lights. This is especially true for those of you who may routinely drive through them on your normal way to work or other destination. During the couple of months they are not in effect you may tend to get complacent and forget there is a school zone there. Donít allow that complacency to lull you into speeding into that school zone when that light is flashing. Also remember that for about a year now the State law prohibiting talking on a cell phone in an active school zone has been in effect. Historically, officers have been issuing warnings for the most part until motorists learn of the new law. That grace period is well past and citations will be issued, both for speeding as well as talking on cell phones while in an active school zone. Donít add to your frustration by earning yourself one of the above citations.
All drivers should be extra vigilant during school take-up and dismissal times, even when not in a school zone. Kids are throughout subdivisions all over town walking, riding bicycles or waiting at a bus stop. Many times they forget to look when crossing a street or donít think before stepping off a curb or opening a car door into oncoming traffic. Often the lighting is dim because the sun isnít up and it is difficult to see a small child in dark clothing standing on a curb.
While driving, think of how you would like other drivers to respond to your child and then accord that same courtesy to every child you see. Officers are often told to ďdrive with their head on a swivel.Ē This means looking around and being hyper vigilant of surroundings. All drivers would do well to heed this same advise while driving, but more especially during these times of added traffic congestion.
Parents, remind children to walk or ride their bikes straight to school and home. It is a good idea to walk the route with them several times well before school starts. That way they become familiar with streets they may have to cross, stop sign locations or other potential dangers, as well as locating trusted safe places to go in emergencies, before the actual day when there are a lot of added distractions. Remind them to look both ways before crossing any street. Remind them to listen to and obey the directions of any school crossing guard that may be present. Remind them to walk their bikes across intersections and to stay on sidewalks when one is provided. Call ahead if needed and learn the times buses pick up and drop off your child.
One absolutely great way to avoid the hassle of all the congestion and delays is to put your child on the school bus. America is one of the few places in the world that provides free bus transportation to and from public schools and increasingly Americans do not take advantage of it. When I was a kid, riding a bus was a thrill and something to look forward to doing. Now, it seems itís almost become a stigma. What a shame. Those big yellow Twinkies are very safe. They are much better constructed than the average vehicle, plus they are driven by professional drivers that take your child straight to the front door of their school and pretty close to the front door of your home. Utilize that great tool. It keeps you out of the congestion and removes one car (yours) from the roadway, helping everyone get where they are going faster, easier and safer.
Obviously, the above suggestions do not cover every added contingency to deal with back-to-school endeavors. The old adage of ďstay alert Ė donít get hurtĒ applies here. Everyone - drivers, passengers, school bus riders, walkers and bike riders should be hyper vigilant at all times but more especially during the first weeks of school.
If you have any questions or comment about this or any other safety topic donít hesitate to call the Little Elm Police Department at 214-975-0461. Be safe!