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Review safety as kids head back to school

school busSchool buses and crossing guards will soon return to city streets as children throughout Woodbury head back to school. It’s a good time of year to remind motorists to drive carefully, watch for children and observe all laws pertaining to school zone safety.

Stop for the buses
Failure to stop for school buses when the stop arm is extended is a serious violation. The Woodbury Police Department investigates all complaints reported by school bus drivers. Owners of vehicles found in violation are subject to a traffic ticket regardless of who is driving the vehicle at the time of the violation.

Motorists should know what is required whenever the flashing amber or flashing red lights of a school bus are activated. The Minnesota State Patrol provides the following descriptions:

  • School bus pre-warning signals: The flashing amber lights are meant to warn other drivers that the school bus is preparing to load or unload students. Upon observing a school bus displaying flashing amber lights, be extra alert for children in the area and be prepared to stop. It is a gross misdemeanor to pass or attempt to pass on the right side of a school bus displaying the amber flashing warning lights.
  • School bus red lights and stop arm: When the school bus is stopped with its flashing red lights activated and its stop arm extended, traffic from both directions must stop at least 20 feet away from the school bus. Motorists must remain stopped until the stop arm is retracted and the red lights are no longer flashing. The only time motorists are not required to stop for a school bus with its red lights flashing is when the bus is on a separate roadway. A separate roadway means a road that is separated from a parallel road by a safety isle or safety zone.

 Pedestrians and crosswalks
School buses aren’t the only concern with the kids going back to school. There will be increased pedestrian traffic at crosswalks and intersections in Woodbury, and safety is critical. 

Of course, it is easier to stop for pedestrians if you are observing the school zone speed limits. These are clearly posted. Remember you must stop when school patrol members have their flag extended at an intersection or crossing. Think of the flag as the red light of a traffic signal.

Teach the children
Safety messages often go primarily to drivers, but it’s important for parents to instruct their children in safe crossing practices, and also in school bus safety.

Children need to know how to judge if there is adequate time to cross a street. They must be alert and cautious at all crossings, and never enter a road from between parked cars. Encourage all children to make eye contact with motorists when crossing; it can help validate that the motorist sees the pedestrian.

Reminders for teen drivers
If you have teenaged drivers in your household, be aware that they have a statistically higher risk of being in an accident than more experienced drivers. Before allowing your teen driver to climb behind the wheel and head to school, be sure you both agree on the boundaries and limitations of his or her driving time.

Discuss when, where and with whom your teen is allowed to drive. Insist that your teen wears their seatbelt at all times. In addition, emphasize that using a mobile phone for any purpose is illegal for drivers under age 18.

As the kids return to school, drivers should slow down, pay attention, and be courteous. Let’s all do our part to make our community and neighborhoods safer for everyone, especially our children.