• August 18, 2019

STONE: Drive safely this school year - Odessa American: Levi Stone

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STONE: Drive safely this school year

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Posted: Sunday, August 11, 2019 7:00 am

If you’ve watched any amount of television of late, there have been several back to school commercials prompting parents to include backpacks and notebooks on their next shopping lists.

However, what these commercials should also do is remind us that kids will soon be hitting the streets and crosswalks on their way to school.

That means we must make personal commitments in avoiding distractions while driving. Distractions come in various forms, but it only takes one to cause a life changing event to unfold that otherwise could — and should have been prevented.

Distracted driving, or simply not paying attention to your surroundings, are all too common to our area resulting in tickets, vehicle damage, personal injury, or even deaths. It’s time to step up efforts to eliminate all distractions and unsafe driving so we provide the safest environment possible for our children commuting to and from school.

Be aware of posted speed limits and crosswalks. One law that seems to go overlooked or even ignored is pedestrians having the right of way. Unfortunately, too many motorists blast through crosswalks, not giving a second glance to those attempting to cross the street.

Children may not look both ways, especially if accompanied by an adult, assuming their safety is in check by a trusting parent, crossing guard, or teacher.

Make it a point this week and going forward to slow down in school zones and around crosswalks.

Get in the habit of obeying posted speed limits, especially in school zones, and knowing where crosswalks are on your daily commute. Even at intersections without designated crosswalks, always be on the alert for those walking and anticipate their actions before passing through.

Buses are statistically one of the safest forms of transportation for students, but accidents can still occur. If you find yourself behind a slowing school bus making a stop, slow down as well. As you stop, allow at least 10 feet of clearance between your vehicle and the bus to allow riders to enter and exit safely.

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, passing that school bus can result in a ticket, costing you up to $1,000. Continue to stay alert since children’s action can be unpredictable having a tendency to wander, ignore hazards, or fail to look both ways when crossing the street.

Some kids may ride a bike to school which can present several challenges to both those riding them and the motorists around them.

For most adult cyclists, knowing and obeying traffic laws is understood but that isn’t always the case for children. If you’re a parent allowing your child to ride his/her bike, take time to go over the basics of riding safely.

Spend a weekend riding a bike with them, using this as a teaching moment so they are better equipped with knowledge of traffic laws and their responsibilities as cyclists. For us behind the wheel, watch for bikes coming out of driveways or behind parked cars and other obstructions.

Collisions are more common when drivers are turning left in front of an oncoming bicycle or turning right across the path of a bicycle. In either scenario, the best way to avoid a collision is to allow the cyclist to pass or go through before making the turn.

We’ve heard it a million times, but obviously can’t be said enough — put cell phones away while driving.

It goes far beyond just texting and driving because our phones are used for so many other things as well. From checking emails, browsing the web, or fiddling with apps, a quick glance off the road and to your phone is enough to limit your reaction time in avoiding crashing into another car or worse, a child crossing the street.

Do whatever it takes to remove this distraction from your vehicle. Put your phone in the back seat, your trunk, or glove box. Just put it somewhere, out of reach, so the temptation is not there.  Nothing on your phone is worth risking your life and the lives of others.

Finally, consider allowing extra time for your commute. Several roads on your way to work or the grocery store will be active school zones, buzzing with activity, and more congested than before.

Planning an additional 15 to 30 minutes will allow you to navigate through frequent stops and traffic delays without speeding. The last thing anyone needs to be is in a hurry. Slow down…be aware…watch for kids, because they’re not always watching you.

Odessa, TX

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