Safe Families

Aug 11, 2014 6:11 PM

Safety officials remind motorists that kids are back in school

Whether they walk, peddle a bike, ride a school bus or carpool, hundreds of thousands of Louisiana students will be back on the road in August as Louisiana schools open following the long summer break. The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission is reminding drivers, parents and students to be aware of and follow safety laws and rules designed to keep children safe on their way to and from school.

"The end of summer vacation means that millions of miles will be traveled getting kids to and from school," said Lt. Col. John LeBlanc, executive director of the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission. "The more people and vehicles you have on the road, the greater the likelihood of crashes. Laws, such as reduced speed limits in school zones and stopping traffic around school buses that are loading or unloading, have done much to keep our children safe."

A new Louisiana law that became effective on Aug. 1 prohibits drivers from using any type of handheld wireless communications device while traveling through school zones during posted hours. The law includes use of a cellular/wireless device for engaging in a voice call, accessing, reading or posting to a social networking site and/or writing, sending, or reading a text-based communication. The school zone cell-phone ban does not apply if the device is being used to report an emergency, is being used in a hands-free manner, or while the vehicle is lawfully parked. The fine for a first violation is $175 and subsequent violations can be up to $500.

School children are especially concentrated around school buses as they load and unload passengers.
Motorists are required to stop at least 30 feet away from a school bus that has stopped to load or unload children. Stopping is required whether approaching a bus from the opposite direction or traveling behind it. Motorists are not required to stop when a school bus is stopped in opposite lanes on a roadway separated by a ditch, grassy median, elevated concrete barrier or any obstacle that prevents traffic from driving thereon. A school bus that has stopped to unload or pick up passengers will extend its stop arm and activate its flashing red lights.

Drivers must take other safety precautions during the school year, such as slowing down and obeying the posted speed limit in school zones. All motorists should also be alert and watch for children who may dart into the street without looking. Drivers must make sure all child passengers are in age-appropriate seats and that restraints and seat belts are correctly fastened. Children who have outgrown safety or booster seats should be seated in the rear seats of the vehicle with seat belts properly fastened. Louisiana law requires all occupants -- regardless of age or seating positions -- to buckle up while a vehicle is in motion.

The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission also recommends parents and guardians help keep their children safe by teaching them these precautions:

? When waiting for the school bus, line up away from the street as the bus approaches.
? After entering the bus, find a seat and remain seated until the bus comes to a complete stop.
? When exiting the bus, always stop at the curb and wait for a signal from the bus driver before crossing the street.
· Children who walk or ride bicycles to school should be taught to look left, right and left again before crossing the street; to cross only at designated crossings; and to never dart out into traffic or enter the road from between parked cars. Young cyclists should always wear helmets.

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