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Back to School: Officials offering tips to keep everyone safe as new year begins

By Staff | Jul 29, 2016

As students prepare to head back to school, motorists and parents should keep in mind some basic safety tips to help ensure a great start to the new year for everyone.

“We haven’t really had a lot of kids getting hit by cars, and we want to make sure that it doesn’t happen,” Sgt. Jon Kulko, with the Cape Coral Police Department’s Traffic Unit, said.

Parents, caregivers and guardians are asked to talk to children about back-to-school safety.

“We want to make sure people are paying extra attention,” he said.

According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, there were 2,306 crashes in 2014 involving child pedestrians and child bicyclists. Out of those crashes, 48 resulted in fatalities.

“We want to make sure they’re looking out for everyone’s safety, especially in the morning and the evening hours – sunrise and sunset,” Kulko said.

Bicyclists should ride with traffic and obey all traffic signals, signs and lane markings.

“Bicycles are considered vehicles, so they need to travel in the same direction,” he said, adding that there should be a light on the front and the back of the bicycle for safety.

If a bicyclist rides on the sidewalk, he or she needs to yield to any pedestrians on the sidewalk.

Pedestrians should always use the sidewalk if one is available, according to Kulko. If there is no sidewalk, walk on the side of the road facing traffic and take the time to use crosswalks.

“People are looking for your in a crosswalk, not in the middle of the road or in the median,” he said.

If there are school crossing guards present, listen to them and follow their instructions.

Wearing bright or reflective colors on clothes and shoes can help make the wearer more visible.

“So headlights will be able to see you as they approach,” Kulko said.

Do not sit or stand in the road while waiting for the school bus.

“Please don’t accept rides from strangers or talk to strangers,” he said.

“If you see something strange, call police,” Kulko added.

Bicycles ridden to the bus stop should be locked up so that they cannot be stolen.

On the school bus, obey the bus driver and stay in your seat.

“Don’t walk around when the bus is moving,” he said.

When driving students to school, seatbelt and child restraint safety are a concern.

In 2014, there were more than 25,000 citations issued in Florida for child restraint and seatbelt violations for children 17 years of age and younger, according to the DHSMV’s statistics.

State law requires that children 5 years old and younger must use a federally-approved car seat. Passengers up to 3 years old must use a separate carrier or a vehicle manufacturer’s integrated child seat, and ages 4-5 years require a separate carrier, an integrated child seat or a child booster seat.

Children ages 6-17 years old must use a seatbelt while riding in a motor vehicle.

Along with students and parents, motorists should focus on safety as schools resume.

“Once school’s in session, there’s a lot more people on the roadways,” Kulko said. “They need to be aware of their surroundings as they’re traveling – keep their head up and watch the roadway.”

Avoid texting, eating and other distracted driving habits while behind the wheel.

“Be extra careful,” he said. “Obey school zone speeds of 20 mph. Obey the crossing guards.”

There were more than 3,000 drivers cited in Florida in 2014 for passing a stopped school bus that was unloading children, according to the DHSMV. The motto is “Remember, Stop on Red, kids ahead!”

Motorists are required to stop when they approach a school bus that is stopped with its red lights flashing and STOP arms extended. Oncoming traffic does not have to stop only if it a divided road with a grass or cement median or curbing. If there is no divider, then oncoming traffic must also stop.

“If there is no median, you have to stop in all directions,” Kulko said.

Drivers should also be alert and pay attention when backing up.

The DHSMV recommended that motorists walk around a vehicle to check for children playing, know the vehicle’s blind spots and look before reversing. Then, take a second look and back out slowly.

Youths should be taught to never play in, on, under or around vehicles.

“Make sure you watch kids as you’re passing them,” he said. “Kids can dart out.”

For more, visit www.flhsmv.gov.