Opinion: Commentary: Helping Start the School Year Safely

Opinion: Commentary: Helping Start the School Year Safely

Parents are smiling and children are sighing as the summer days come to an end. It’s as apt a time as ever for us to review the safety precautions and changes that come with Back to School Season. It is everyone’s responsibility to make sure the school year starts off safely for our children.

Fairfax County Public Schools will start on Aug. 26. More than 1,700 buses will be on the road, making it particularly important that you know the schedules. Elementary schools start and end times vary. They start from 8:10 to 9:20 a.m. and end from 2:55 to 4:05 p.m. Middle schools begin 7:30 a.m. and end 2:15 p.m. Three secondary schools (Hayfield, Lake Braddock and Robinson) begin 8 a.m. and end 2:45 p.m. High schools begin 8:10 a.m. and end 2:55 p.m. I would advise you to check the Fairfax County Public Schools website to check when your closest elementary school starts and ends. All commuters should prepare to leave a few minutes early to avoid back to school commuting.

When a school bus is stopped with red flashing lights, all cars must stop unless they are in another lane divided by a median. If you are traveling in a two-lane roadway with no median, all cars in both directions must stop when the bus is loading or unloading. Drivers in all directions must also stop when driving in a two-lane roadway with a center turn lane or in 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 a physical median.

It is important to remember that many children will be walking to school and to neighborhood bus stops. Please yield to children crossing the streets, look out for crossing guards and follow their instructions. Keep your car off the crosswalk when stopped. Be prepared to stop for children who may make unexpected movements into roadways and 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 to prevent injuries caused by rushing to 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. If you drive your kids to school, use the kiss and ride process. Do not drop off children on the street—you create a safety hazard for other vehicles when you do.

Whether you have children in school or not, it is everyone’s responsibility to follow traffic laws and help start the school year safely.