The Acadiana Planning Commission is focusing on school transportation safety as students prepare to return to the classroom during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The commission says that transportation, like school days, will look very different this year.
While some students will be learning from home, the planning commission says that around 2/3rds of Acadiana's students will still be traveling to and from campus.
A safe trip to school, whether by bus, car or on foot, is more important than ever, they said.
"With changes to school's start and ends times, students attending on different days of the week, and students using alternate means of transportation, disruptions to a family's routine are inevitable and safety can take a back seat," says Ron Czajkowski, Acadiana Regional Transportation Safety Coordinator. "We want to ask Acadiana residents to prioritize safety when getting their kids to and from school."
Below are some tips for those traveling during school hours.
Drivers should remember that school zones in Louisiana are designated hands-free zones, and it is illegal to hold a cell phone in hand when operating a motor vehicle in these zones. Drivers can receive a fine of up to $500. Drivers should also brake for the school bus. Yellow flashing lights mean slow down because the bus is preparing to stop. There are students waiting to get on the bus or parents waiting nearby to pick up children. Red flashing lights mean stop and wait because children are getting on or off the school bus. Stay stopped until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop-arm is withdrawn, and the bus begins moving.
For some teens, back to school also means the new-found freedom of driving. Young drivers should keep these things in mind when driving to school:
- The car shouldn't move until everyone is buckled up.
- Follow the speed limit.
- Stay focused. In 2017, 297 people died in crashes that involved distracted teen (15- to 19-year-old) drivers.
- Remember that the phone stays down when driving. Make it a habit to put your phone in the glove compartment or other inaccessible location, to reduce temptation to check notifications or texts.
- Reduce distraction by limiting the number of additional passengers. If you do have others in the car with you, keep your eyes and your mind on the road.
Parents should talk school bus safety with their children. School buses are still the safest way for children to travel to and from school, while practicing social distancing and wearing a face covering.
Children should arrive at the bus stop at least 5 minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive. Teach them to play it SAFE:
- Stay five steps away from the curb.
- Always wait until the bus comes to a complete stop and the bus driver tells you to board.
- Face forward after finding a seat on the bus.
- Exit the bus when it stops and look left-right-left for cars before crossing a street.
Walking to school is great exercise, but children under 10 years old should be accompanied by an adult or with someone who will make sure they walk safely. If students choose to walk:
- Use the sidewalk whenever possible, and if there isn't a sidewalk, walk on the edge of the street facing traffic.
- Whenever they are available, use marked crosswalks to cross the street, and look left-right-left for vehicles or bikes before crossing.
- Make sure children never play, push or shove others when they are walking around traffic.
- Everyone should watch the road, not their phones.
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