Monday, September 27, 2010

It’s that time of year . . .

Contributed by Norm Nyhuis, Safety Trainer, Evergreen Safety Council

I got a phone call last week from western New York State; our daughter called to say that yesterday was the first day of kindergarten for our grand daughter. She related that they had anxiously waited together, for the school bus to come to her stop, a quick hug and a wave from the bus window and the new school year was underway. As we listened to the story, we too felt the tears our daughter said she had turned away quickly to hide, as the bus pulled away from the stop. It seems it was only a few years ago, (1981) when my wife and I had this same experience – but the little girl in pig-tails then, was now the “Mom” as this little drama played out.

Much has changed in the intervening years, however some things remain the same, and the safety issues surrounding the return to school, must be high on our list. As autumn approaches, the hours of daylight are getting rapidly shorter – it’s still dark in the mornings when the kids are making their way to school or to the bus stop. Along with the darkness, the weather compounds the difficulty in seeing the kids as they stand along the road, or cross the street in front of us. Current fashion trends for school age kids just doesn’t include retro-reflective materials on their clothing – what a fashion statement that would make!

Here are some tips for those of us who drive through school zones or along roads where the kids are waiting for the bus:
  • Kids are unpredictable: they don’t always walk on the sidewalk, often they are on the curb or even in the street.
  • They are NOT thinking about you approaching in your car – that’s about the last thing on their minds.
  • Their clothing is usually dark colored and on a dark rainy morning is very hard to see.
  • Current styles, such as coats with attached hoods, limit peripheral vision, and muffle sound, so the kids can neither see nor hear you approaching, as you come up from behind them.
  • Older kids are often distracted by their cell phones; are often busy texting – focusing on the electronic conversation – while totally unaware of where they are walking.
  • Kids cross the street just about anywhere – not just at marked crosswalks – drivers need to expect the unexpected.

The school zone speed limit is 20 miles an hour for a reason; driving even a few miles an hour above that speed greatly increases the distance you will travel as you recognize the child that has just darted out into the street, and the physics of breaking are inescapable – a doubling of your speed does not merely double your stopping distance – it makes it four times as great.

Please pay extra attention when driving near schools or along roads where kids wait for the school bus, the kids are depending on us!

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