Editorial: With school starting up again, students' safety is paramount

With many area schools starting back this week it is a good time to remind ourselves of the need to be extra vigilant when driving, and to be on the lookout for those students who might not always make the safest decisions and may run into traffic or cause some other traffic-related problem.

Of course, being a safe or defensive driver is always desirable, but this time of year such reminders are especially important.

Students in Dalton Public Schools start back on Wednesday, and Whitfield County public schools get underway on Thursday, while Christian Heritage School starts Aug. 12. Schools in the Murray County Schools system don't start back until Sept. 3 because of extended school days throughout the year.

With the knowledge that there can be traffic delays, school buses loading and unloading, children on bicycles or even perhaps walking to school, the Georgia Department of Transportation has offered these valuable instructions on how "to put safety first":

• "Pay attention to school zone flashing beacons and obey school zone speed limits."

• "Obey school bus laws."

• "Stop behind/do not pass a school bus that is stopped to load or unload children."

• "If the lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended, opposing traffic must stop unless it is on a divided highway with a grass or concrete median."

• "Watch for students gathering near bus stops, and for kids arriving late, who may dart into the street. Children often are unpredictable, and they tend to ignore hazards and take risks."

The Georgia Department of Transportation notes that "According to the National Safety Council, most children who lose their lives in school bus-related incidents are four to seven years old, walking, and they are hit by the bus, or by a motorist illegally passing a stopped bus."

“It's never more important for drivers to slow down and pay attention than when kids are present — especially in the peak traffic hours before and after school,” said Grant Waldrop, district engineer at the GDOT office in White.

“If you're driving behind a school bus, increase your following distance to allow more time to stop once the lights start to flash. The area 10 feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for children; stop far enough back to give them space to safely enter and exit the bus,” Waldrop explained.

All good points. We encourage you to take these instructions to heart and to be aware of the dangers that come with the start of a new school year. All our students are precious and we must take every precaution to ensure they are safe, including when they are in a school setting or getting on and off the bus.

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