Back-to-school safety reminders for drivers

Published: Aug. 20, 2018 at 5:30 PM CDT
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Monday was the first day back in the classroom for many kids in our region as others prepare to head back over the next two weeks.

It is always a week of adjustment for kids, but drivers also need to get back into the routine of the school year.

For the past three months, drivers have probably gotten used to cruising right by school zone signs but this week that all changes. It’s why school and community leaders came together Monday to make sure drivers are also in back-to-school mode.

“Watch for children who are going to be really excited to see their friends, their classmates and their teachers and won't necessarily have drivers as top of mind. So you please be aware of the students,” Sioux Falls Superintendent Dr. Brian Maher said.

The streets around schools are once again filled with kids.

“One Hundred percent of your focus should be on the roadway, especially in those times when kids are heading to and from school,” Eric Majeres with the Volunteers of America Office of Highway Safety said.

A big part of keeping that focus means putting down your phone.

“Texting and driving through a school zone would be reckless,” Sioux Falls Police Department School Resource Officer Robert Draeger said.

But even elementary students can notice plenty of drivers on their phones, even right outside their schools.

“I usually try to get their attention and tell them to get off their phone so we make sure no kids get hurt,” 12-year-old Lily Rosa de Sharon said.

Rosa de Sharon is a member of St. Mary’s safety patrol. It’s a group of kids outside every elementary school that school administrators want drivers to pay attention to.

“They are trained in how to stop traffic and allow pedestrians safe crossing into the crosswalk,” Diane Hall with South Dakota Emergency Services for Children said.

“They should watch for us to put our sticks out and then slow down so they can see us,” Rosa de Sharon said.

Sioux Falls Police officers will be doing a school zone saturation patrol over the next two weeks to make sure drivers slow down.

“Unfortunately we do stop a lot of parents who are coming and going from the school, they're in a hurry to drop their kids off, and they'll be speeding in and out of school zones,” Officer Draeger said.

The speed limit drops to 15 anytime drivers can see kids out in the school zone.

“Traffic is going to be slower, it has to be in order for everyone to be safe,” Dr. Maher said.

If you have a student starting school this week, it’s also a good idea to practice walking to and from school, pick out the safest route from your home and remind your kids to always use the crosswalks. Police say the safest option for both pedestrians and drivers is to make eye contact to show you're both aware and focused on the road.

It’s not just school zones drivers need to look out for, but also school buses. Drivers in all directions are required to stop anytime a bus has its arm extended with flashing red lights.