SOUTH HADLEY - Summer is winding down and school is soon to be back in session.
Next week, students will walk, bike or ride to and from school. Inevitably, our roads will be more congested. It’s important every day, but particularly before and after school, for motorists to slow down and pay attention to the road.
“Ensuring that our children can commute between school and home safely is the responsibility of the entire community,” said South Hadley Chief of Police Jennifer Gundersen. “Motorists are encouraged to allow a bit more time to get to and from work to compensate for the additional bus traffic.”
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), most of the children who die in bus-related incidents are 4 to 7 years old - and they're walking. These children are hit by the bus, or by a motorist illegally passing a stopped bus.
Chief Gundersen urged motorists to “please be patient as bus drivers are learning new routes. Do not speed and do not follow too closely to the bus. Be alert when driving, and recognize while most children will look before crossing the road some may not. Let’s keep our children safe!”
The NSC offers precautions motorists can take to keep everyone using the roadways safe:
Sharing the Road with Young Pedestrians
Don't block the crosswalk when stopped at a red light or waiting to make a turn, forcing pedestrians to go around you; this could put them in the path of moving traffic
- In a school zone when flashers are blinking, stop and yield to pedestrians crossing the crosswalk or intersection
- Always stop for a school patrol officer or crossing guard holding up a stop sign
- Take extra care to look out for children in school zones, near playgrounds and parks, and in all residential areas
- Never pass a vehicle stopped for pedestrians
Sharing the Road with School Buses
If you're driving behind a bus, allow a greater following distance than if you were driving behind a car. It will give you more time to stop once the yellow lights start flashing. It is illegal in all 50 states to pass a school bus that is stopped to load or unload children.
- Never pass a bus from behind – or from either direction if you're on an undivided road – if it is stopped to load or unload children
- If the yellow or red lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended, traffic must stop
- The area 10 feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for children; stop far enough back to allow them space to safely enter and exit the bus
- Be alert; children often are unpredictable, and they tend to ignore hazards and take risks
If You're Dropping Off
Schools often have very specific drop-off procedures for the school year. Make sure you know them for the safety of all kids. The following apply to all school zones:
- Don't double park; it blocks visibility for other children and vehicles
- Don't load or unload children across the street from the school
- Carpool to reduce the number of vehicles at the school
For more information about road safety, visit https://www.nsc.org/home-safety/seasonal-safety/back-to-school/drivers. For local issues, please contact the South Hadley Police Department at 538-8231.