Safety top priority as school doors open again
The rush to fill supply lists and update fall wardrobes is complete for many children across Idaho who are bidding farewell to summer vacation and hello to school classmates.
As the annual pilgrimage back to school hits full stride, motorists and children are encouraged to make safety their highest priority. Traffic volume increases around schools in late August and early September, bringing increased risk of crashes involving cars, bicycles and pedestrians.
ITD joins public and private partners statewide in urging motorists, children, parents and teachers to use caution in areas where children likely will be present, both during school hours and school commutes.
Flashing yellow lights and fluorescent signs clearly identify most school zones and pedestrian/bicycle crossings in Idaho.
Drivers who fail to slow down to school zone speeds (generally posted at 20 mph or slower) pay enhanced fines as a result of 2008 legislation. State law proscribes a minimum fine of $75, plus $41.50 in court costs for school zone violations. Local jurisdictions have the authority to establish higher fines.
Unless otherwise posted, school zone speed limits do not apply on non-school days. The posted speed limit signs indicate the school zone, the reduced speed limit and one of the following:
Hours of the day when the speed limit is in effect
The speed limit is in effect when an electrical or mechanical sign indicates, or
The speed limit is in effect at all times on school days
Some schools also use crossing guards at intersections. Motorists are required to slow or stop as the guards dictate.
Motorists who have grown accustomed to driving unimpeded through the zones the past three months will need to renew their vigilance. They also will need to watch for inattentive children stepping from curbs, meandering bicycles straying into the traffic lane and buses stopped for student loading and unloading.
School children also share a responsibility to be aware of increased traffic along primary school routes. Parents and teachers should encourage children to watch for distracted drivers and realize that cars may not slow for flashing lights or crossing guards.
Awareness and anticipation are keys to ensuring the next nine months are free of casualties and enabling children and vehicles to coexist safely. Take nothing for granted, and do not assume others know of your presence or intentions.
To reduce the risk that children face on their journey to and from school, ITD has created an ambitious Safe Routes to School program. It provides grant funds for infrastructure improvements and educational and incentive programs to local school districts, cities, counties and highway districts.
Many improvements to bicycle and pedestrian paths, crosswalks and crossing signs already have been completed. Others are in the process. Educational programs also are being designed in many school districts to prepare children for safe travel to schools.
“This is always an exciting time of year for children. School shopping is done and kids are anxious to get back together with classmates they haven’t seen since spring,” said Josephine O’Connor, coordinator of the statewide Safe Routes to School program. “Too often, (children) are preoccupied by that excitement, and the last things on their minds are the hazards associated with traffic.
“Children tend to act impulsively, often are less aware of their surroundings and are easily distracted. That can be a dangerous combination. Our best advice, for motorists and children alike, is to slow down and be aware of your surroundings. Drivers should look for distracted children and children should watch for distracted drivers.”
Safety tips for school children
Safety tips for walking, biking to school
Safety tips for motorists