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Everyone plays important role in student safety

By the end of next week, almost all Sauk Valley students will be back in the classroom – eager to learn, we hope, and to develop socially.

That means thousands of children, some as young as 5, are emerging from their homes each weekday morning, backpacks in tow, walking to the place where they will meet their ride to school.

As alert motorists know, children don’t always make the best decisions. They are more apt to run inattentively into the street. Children also are smaller, so they can’t be seen as easily. Remember that at bus stops and in school zones. Remember, too, that it’s against the law to talk on a cellphone while driving or parked in a school zone.

Some safety tips for drivers, courtesy of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

• When backing out of a driveway or leaving a garage, watch out for children walking or bicycling to school.

• When driving in neighborhoods with school zones, watch out for young people who may be thinking about getting to school, but may not be thinking of getting there safely.

• Slow down. Watch for children walking in the street, especially if there are no sidewalks in the neighborhood. Watch for children playing and congregating near bus stops.

• Be alert. Children arriving late for the bus may dart into the street without looking for traffic.

• Learn and obey the school bus laws in Illinois. Learn the “flashing signal light system” that school bus drivers use to alert motorists of pending actions. Yellow flashing lights indicate that the bus is preparing to stop to load or unload children. Motorists should slow down and prepare to stop their vehicles. Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate that the bus has stopped, and that children are getting on or off. Motorists must stop their cars and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop sign is withdrawn, and the bus begins moving before they can start driving again.

For children, the greatest risk is not riding the bus, but approaching or leaving the bus. Some NHTSA tips for parents to impress on their children:

• Get to the bus stop at least 5 minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive.

• When the bus approaches, stand at least three giant steps away from the curb, and line up away from the street.

• Wait until the bus stops, the door opens, and the driver says that it’s OK before stepping onto the bus.

• If you have to cross the street in front of the bus, walk on the sidewalk or along the side of the road to a point at least five giant steps ahead of the bus before you cross. Be sure that the bus driver can see you, and you can see the bus driver.

• Use the handrails to avoid falls. When exiting the bus, be careful that clothing with drawstrings, and book bags with straps don’t get caught in the handrails or doors.

• Never walk behind the bus.

• Walk at least three giant steps away from the side of the bus.

• If you drop something near the bus, tell the bus driver. Never try to pick it up because the driver may not be able to see you.

Stay safe as our children go back to school.

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