Back-to-school season brings back the commotion of a jam-packed schedule, after-school activities and hours of homework to households with students.
But parents aren’t the only ones preparing for the chaos, school officials and the police department are also working together to make sure the process moves as efficiently as possible. To do so, they need the help of both students and parents to be aware, prepared and follow essential rules, said Capt. Tom Roberts of the Clovis Police Department.
For the first few weeks of school, it’s important for parents to plan on getting to campus early, said Gettysburg Elementary School principal Nick Mele. He finds that the first few weeks parents tend to linger around until the students start their class time. Because of this, more stalls and parking spaces are used and it may be harder and take longer to find parking.
A few areas of concern for officers are pick-up and drop-off locations where a lapse of judgement can cause a hazardous situation.
“When you are running late and rush that’s when negative things happens,” explained officer Johnny Fisher from the CHP Central Division. “I would like to remind everybody that you are not at a track – it’s not the olympics. Sometimes you are running a little behind, life happens so just take a second and realize there are more moving parts out there than solely your vehicle.”
Many times, Fisher said, officers see children not belted in or kids taking their seat belts off as their car goes through an intersection because they are late. Other times they may see parents double parking, not yielding to pedestrians, running red lights or speeding in school zones.
These concerning situations are only a few examples of the violations officers from the Clovis Police department will be looking for, said Roberts. In the first few weeks of school, the department will be placing extra resources around school in the morning and the afternoon to enforce these traffic laws and reduce of the risk of pedestrians being struck by cars.
Areas where school buses load and unload students are also a concern because drivers who don’t obey the stop signal can be a danger to a child who assumes traffic is going to stop.
“They are big, yellow and they make frequent stops. When school buses stop and the yellow lights come on and flash that means it’s time to slow down,” Fisher said. “When the red lights flash, you have to stop. I’ve written several tickets for people to bypass that and those people can run over a kid.”
Fisher would also like to remind students who recently received their driving license that there is no excuse for a lack of safety.
“Officers hang out around school for that reason. The No. 1 killer of kids in America is traffic collisions,” Fisher said. “Yearly we lose 4,000-6,000 kids who are 15 to 19 years old, and we are trying to reduce this number.”
Drivers are reminded to stay off cell phones, and those who are under 18 are not allowed to even use bluetooth devices.
Students who walk to school are also encouraged to keep any distraction to a minimum while crossing streets
“Don’t have your head buried in your phone,” said Fisher. “Have your head up, look around, make eye contact with these drivers especially when you are walking off the sidewalk.”
Fisher added that if students are walking to and from school, they should do so in pairs. Mele also encourages parents with younger kids who are planning to walk to school to practice the route with their kids until they become familiar with it. “Especially for the kids who need to cross the street; it’s important for parents to take the time and explain to their child how to do it safely before they do it on their own,” Mele said. The same goes for students who are waiting for the bus, said Mele. Parents should walk with the students to the bus stop and wait with them until the bus arrives.