With thousands of children heading back to school, Lakewood Police Chief Greg Meyer is reminding motorists and students to be extra vigilant on the roads, especially in school zones and along school bus routes.
The first weeks of school can be the most dangerous time on the road for students as they acclimate to rising early and crossing busy streets, and as motorists adjust to sharing the road with school buses.
According to the State Division of Highway Traffic Safety and the New Jersey Department of Education, a survey of 1,394 school bus drivers in the state found that on a single day last spring, motorists illegally passed stopped school buses on 793 occasions. The survey, conducted annually by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, counts incidents in which motorists illegally pass buses that are fully stopped with lights flashing and stop signs extended.
“Our patrol division will be out enforcing such violations and ensuring the safety of our children,” Chief Meyer said.
The Division of Highway Traffic Safety provided the following tips to help reduce traffic risks and enhance student safety during the school year:
Motorists: Be aware of an increased number of students on the road. Watch out for bicyclists and pedestrians, especially when backing out of a driveway or driving through a neighborhood or school zone. Obey traffic laws, especially in school zones. Unless otherwise posted, the speed limit in a school zone is 25 mph. Student drivers holding graduated licenses must abide by all driving restrictions, including passenger limits.
Pedestrians: Parents and students, walk on sidewalks whenever they are available. If there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic and as far from traffic as possible. Keep alert at all times; don’t be distracted by electronic devices that take your eyes (and ears) off the road. Cross streets at crosswalks or intersections, where drivers expect pedestrians. Look for cars in all directions, including those turning left or right.
Bicyclists: Always wear a correctly fitted helmet with the chinstrap securely fastened. Ride in the same direction as traffic and follow traffic signs and signals. Use bike lanes whenever possible. Pay attention to traffic at all times and never use electronics that can distract you from what’s going on around you.
Parents: Student drop off and pick up can cause traffic congestion that increase risks to students. The safest place to drop off your child is on the school side of the street, next to the curb. If that is not possible, park your vehicle legally (never double park) and accompany your child (using a crosswalk or at the corner) across the street to the sidewalk in front of the school.
“Allow a few extra minutes each morning for your commute,” said Meyer. “Nothing is more important than a life.”