Being aware on the road helps save lives

Back to school means drivers need to be more aware of child pedestrians, cyclists and teen drivers

Now that school is in full swing, local law enforcement agencies are urging drivers to be aware of young pedestrians and cyclists on their way to school. Here, two Grass Valley Elementary crossing guards help a student get through an intersection safely.

Back to school means drivers need to be more aware of child pedestrians, cyclists and teen drivers

With school in full swing, there are an abundance of children walking and cycling through Camas and Washougal compared with the summer months.This means drivers need to be more alert near schools, bus stop locations and student commute areas, according to Scot Boyles, a sergeant with the Camas Police Department.

“Oftentimes, children can be inattentive or unaware of the rules of the road and this can cause dangerous situations,” he said. “We are asking drivers to be extra vigilant in both obeying the traffic laws and also in being aware of the students who might be walking/riding near them. The beginning of the school year is a time when children are at increased risk of transportation-related injuries from pedestrian, bicycle, school bus, and motor vehicle crashes.”

This includes parents dropping off their children at school, added Laura Bolt, principal at Hathaway Elementary in Washougal.

“Please don’t double park on the street,” she said. “Children run out and may not see oncoming cars.”

Boyles added kids are at increased risk for injury during this time of year because of increased traffic.

Children are often less cautious around traffic than adults, and it is harder to see them than adults who are walking or cycling.

Riding school buses has its own special set of circumstances, according to the National Safety Council.

While school buses themselves are considered one of the safest forms of transportation, entering and exiting can pose difficulties.

Most of the children who lose their lives in bus-related crashes are pedestrians ages 4 to 7, who are hit by the bus or by motorists illegally passing a school bus.

All 50 states have a law making it illegal to pass a school bus that is stopped to load or unload children, and all require that traffic in both directions stop on undivided roadways.

An undivided roadway is one that does not have a barrier or median separating traffic going in opposite directions.

“Drivers should be extra vigilant and know and obey the law with regard to stopping for school buses and school zone speed limits,” Boyles said.

Cyclists, by law, obey the same traffic laws as motor vehicles and often travel in the same lane.

However, child cyclists often ride on the sidewalk as well as the street, and can be more difficult to see. They may also fail to properly judge traffic flow, or ride across driveway entrances or other areas with vehicles entering and exiting, without checking for oncoming traffic.

The NSC states that when passing a cyclist proceeding in the same direction, vehicle drivers should do so slowly and leave at least 3 feet between the vehicle and the cyclist.

The most common causes of collisions are drivers turning left in front of an oncoming bicycle or turning right, across the path of the bicycle. To help avoid such collisions:

*When making a left turn and there is a cyclist entering the intersection from the opposite direction, wait for them to pass.

*If a vehicle is turning right and a cyclist is approaching on that side, let them go through the intersection first before turning.

“Watch for bicycle riders turning in front of you without looking or signaling, especially if the rider is a child,” the NSA states. “Take extra precautions in school zones and neighborhood areas where children and teenagers might be riding.”

Children are often the least predictable pedestrians and most difficult to see, so drivers should take extra care to look out for them in school zones, residential areas, playgrounds and parks. the NSC states.

In addition, drivers need to remember that in general, pedestrians have the right-of-way at all intersections, whether marked or unmarked.

“Drivers should watch and stop for pedestrians,” Boyles said. ”The law applies to all street corners, for both marked and unmarked crosswalks. Treat every corner as a crosswalk.”

Failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk is a $124 fine.

Besides child pedestrians and cyclists, there are also more teen drivers on the road during the school months. Experienced drivers are cautioned to remember many crashes occur while novice drivers are going to and from school.

“Oftentimes, it is difficult to anticipate how they might react while driving,” Boyles said. “To help keep everyone as safe as possible, parents should require their teen drivers to use seat belts, limit the number of teen passengers, do not allow eating or drinking, and prohibit cell phone conversations or texting.

He added that although there are laws in place prohibiting some of these activities, a parent has much more influence over their teens’ driving habits than the police do.

For more information, visit http://www.nsc.org/safety_home/SafetyObservances, and click onthe “back-to-school” tab.