Commentary: Back to School Safety Tips

Commentary: Back to School Safety Tips

The sleepy days of summer are coming to an end. In a few weeks children will don their backpacks and step into yellow buses when the Fairfax County Public Schools start on Aug. 28. Back to School season is a hectic time for many Fairfax families. This increase in activity means we all must take extra precautions to keep our children and neighbors safe, especially on the road.

Our entire community should be aware during the morning and afternoon school commutes. This time of day will bring a flurry of buses, carpools, cyclists and pedestrians all across the county. Morning commutes will be more crowded as more than 1,700 school buses get back on the road. Drivers should leave a few minutes earlier to allow for more time in their commute.

School buses carry thousands of children to school and back every morning and afternoon. Please respect their important role in our community. When a school bus is stopped with red flashing lights, all cars must stop unless they are in another lane divided by a median. So if you are traveling in a two lane roadway that has no median, all cars going both directions have to stop when the bus is loading or unloading. The same goes for a two lane roadway with a center turn lane and a four lane roadway without a median separation. The only time you can continue driving when a bus is stopped is if you are driving on the other side of the median.

It is important to also keep in mind that many children will be walking to school and to neighborhood bus stops. Make sure to yield to children crossing the streets, especially near schools. Look out for crossing guards and follow their instructions. Keep your car off the cross walk when stopped. Be prepared to stop for children who may make unexpected movements into roadways. And finally, follow the school zone speed limits when the signs are flashing. Most school zones have a 25 mph speed limit, but they may vary.

Parents, please remind your children about street, pedestrian, and bus safety. Try to get to the bus stop early so no one gets hurt while rushing to catch the bus. If you are crossing a roadway, make sure that cars are stopped in both directions before crossing. Teach them to use designated crosswalks if they are available and only approach the bus once it has come to a full stop. If you have young drivers in the family, take time to review the rules about school zones and school buses.

Every Fairfax County child has the right to an education. We all must work together to protect that right by making sure students travel safely to and from school. Please help us keep Fairfax County students safe this year.