SHIFTING GEARS: School speed zones mean drivers have to slow down

People are going to have to be more vigilant. If you see kids walking, slow down.”

— Cpl. Bobby Hunter Community Policing officer at Lee Sheriff’s Office

Bus Riders:

• Have a safe place to wait for your bus, away from traffic and off the street.

• Never sit on the roadway while waiting for your bus.

• Stay away from the bus until the driver gives his/her signal that it’s okay to approach.

• Be aware of the street traffic around you. Protect yourself and watch out!

• While riding the bus, remain seated and conduct yourself in an orderly fashion. Aisles in the bus should remain clear.

• Don’t stick anything out of the bus windows.

Motorists:

• Allow extra time to reach your destination and watch for cars, pedestrians, bicyclists, skateboarders, crossing guards and school buses.

• Both directions of traffic must stop when school bus stop arms and flashing red lights are displayed. The only exception is multi-lane roadways where a raised or grass divider exists. Even in these cases, traffic traveling in the same direction as the bus must stop.

• Be aware of the speed limit and your speed, especially in school zones and around schools. A speeding ticket in a posted school zone will cost double the usual speeding fine.

Parents:

• Take the time to carefully review your children’s route to school before the first day and stress the importance of not wandering off.

• Be realistic about your child’s pedestrian skills. Because small children are impulsive and less cautious around traffic, carefully consider whether or not your child is ready to walk to school without adult supervision.

• If your child is young or is walking to a new school, walk with them the first week to make sure they know the route and can do it safely.

Students on bikes:

• Always wear a bicycle helmet, no matter how short or long the ride. The law requires a helmet be worn by persons under the age of 16.

• Ride on the right, in the same direction as auto traffic (younger children should use sidewalks).

• Wear bright color clothing to increase visibility.

• Walk your bike through intersections.

Students walking:

• Mind all traffic signals and/or the crossing guard -- never cross the street against a light, even if you don’t see any traffic coming. Learn what traffic signals and signs mean.

• Walk with a buddy.

• Wear reflective material... it makes you more visible to street traffic.

• Stay off the road.

• Never walk between parked cars.

Riding in a car:

• All front seat passengers and minors must wear a seat belt and/or an age and size-appropriate car safety seat or booster seat. Florida’s safety belt law is now a primary infraction -- you can and will be stopped and ticketed for not wearing your safety belt. Adult drivers are responsible for their passengers under 18 years of age when it comes to proper safety belt and car seat use.

• Remember, many crashes occur while novice teen drivers are going to and from school. Parents should require seat belt use by the driver and all passengers, limit the number of teen passengers, do not allow eating, drinking, cell phone conversations or texting to prevent driver distraction; limit nighttime driving and driving in inclement weather.

Dealing with strangers:

• Always tell your parents where you are going and when you will return.

• Always walk with a friend. Don’t take shortcuts through woods or back streets.

• Never approach strange vehicles or people. Keep your distance and always give yourself room to run from strangers. Remember, strangers should always ask directions from adults not children.

• Never go with a stranger to look for a missing pet or to play a game.

• If a stranger follows or grabs you, yell loud and run away. If you need to, fight back and make as much noise as you can. Run to a safe place and call 9-1-1.

— As Lee County school children head back to school Monday, local motorists will need to slow down and allow extra time when traveling near school zones.

Lee County Sheriff’s officers will be watching for motorists who aren’t watching out for kids. Speeding fines are doubled in school zones.

“We always ramp up patrol of school zones and school bus stops,” said Lt. Larry King, public information officer for the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.

A recent memo put out by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office reminds motorists to yield at crosswalks and never pass a stopped school bus when its red lights are flashing and stop arm is extended. Both directions of traffic are required to stop unless there is a raised or grass median dividing the roadway.

When school resumes on Monday, more than 600 school buses will be deployed in Lee County. Many of those buses have already hit the roadways in preparation for shuttling children to and from local schools.

Along U.S. 41 in Estero, motorists are advised to be especially mindful of bus stops in the construction zone.

“People are going to have to be more vigilant,” said Lee Sheriff’s Cpl. Bobby Hunter, a Community Policing officer in Bonita Springs. “If you see kids walking, slow down.”

Many students walk along Old 41 and West Terry Street to get to Bonita Middle School, he said. Some children also walk along Old 41 to Bonita Springs Charter School.

The city of Bonita Springs sent out a newsletter this week reminding residents to be mindful of increased vehicle, bike and pedestrian traffic near its schools, said spokesperson Lora Taylor.

The sheriff’s office advises student walkers to stick with a buddy, mind traffic signals and stay off the road. Cyclists should wear a helmet (it’s legally required for those under age 16) and ride in the same direction as traffic or on sidewalks.

Collier County Schools don’t resume until Aug. 22, but Lee County Schools shifted its calendar forward by two weeks this year. An option for high performing school districts, the change allows students to finish the first semester before winter break, said Joe Donzelli, Lee County Schools’ director of communications.

The calendar shift also gives students an additional two weeks of instructional time before taking high-stakes standardized tests in the spring, Donzelli said.

“The pros far outweigh the cons,” he said.

Lee County teachers reported to school Aug. 1.

Parents can find a wealth of back to school information on the Lee County Public Schools website at www.leeschools.net/Back2School, including supply lists, school locations, bell times, procedures and uniform requirements.

Parents who drive their children to school are advised to allow extra time, especially during the first two weeks.

Other motorists should expect increased traffic during the morning rush hour.

“In that first week, people’s patience sometimes wears a little,” King said. “Everybody needs to take a deep breath and realize we’re all working toward the same goal. Plan ahead and prepare.”

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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