Happy September everyone. I hope your summer was enjoyable, safe and that many positive memories were made. Well it’s time to get the kiddos back in school so I will talk about “Back to School Safety.”

Most of you have heard these before but we always need a good reminder of what to do, right? So let’s first talk about school buses. They will be out there on the roadway again and picking up the children for school. There might not be as many kids on them thanks to COVID, but they still will be occupied with our loved ones. So when you see the buses flashing amber and red lights, slow down for the amber, stop for the red and proceed with caution when off. Watch out for kids running to, from and around the bus as well. It’s a misdemeanor offense if you fail to stop for a school bus when the lights are flashing red. Also remember that school buses have to stop for railroad crossings. Use caution when they are stopping for the railroad crossings with their amber hazard lights flashing.

Our next safety tip is to yield to pedestrians when they are crossing the road. If anyone is in a cross walk, you must stop and allow them to safety cross the street. This too carries a hefty fine if you violate this. There might not always be school patrol crossing guards at every intersection around a school. So do the right thing, stop and allow the pedestrians (young or old) to cross the roadway. Do not pass on the right when someone else is stopped in front of you either. We’ve seen many crashes where people pass on the right not knowing someone is crossing in front of a car and people have been seriously injured and killed in crashes like these.

When traveling around “school zone” areas, reduce your speed. There are both pedestrian and motor vehicle traffic with children being picked up and dropped off. Not every school has the flashing LED lights to remind you to slow down around the schools. Please do your part to drive safely and keep your eyes up and head on a swivel watching for the kids going to school.

If you are driving your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews or neighbors to school, make sure they are properly secured in your vehicle. Notice I used the word “properly”. Every child needs to either be in a seatbelt, booster or child safety seat that is properly used so that the belts come across the chest and midsection. The seatbelts should not be put behind the occupant as this could result in serious injury if involved in a motor vehicle crash. This also means all adults need to be seat belted too.

Parents, talk to your kids to about how to safely get to and from school. Tell them to look both ways before they cross the street. Tell them to try to make eye contact with drivers before they cross the street so they know they see them. Tell them to be well behaved when riding on the school bus. That means, no yelling and screaming. That means staying seated until the bus is stopped. That means to be polite to everyone, even those you don’t know and of course to avoid bullying behavior. That goes for all times, on the playground, in the classroom and in the lunch room too.

Finally, we have to talk about safe “COVID” behavior. Teach them on how to properly wear masks, not to take it off and good hand washing. We want to get through this will the fewest number of illness as possible. We need our kids to be healthy so that they have the best learning environment possible.

Stay healthy and be safe!

Troy Dunn is the Rice County Sheriff.

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