Daytona Beach, FL – It may still feel like summer outside, but as far as most Volusia County students are concerned, the summer is over.
The first day of the new public school year has arrived, with more than 70 campuses throughout the county opening its doors today, including alternative sites and charter schools. Flagler County started its school year on Friday.
With the big yellow buses back on the road picking up students, authorities across the county are cautioning drivers to be extra careful, especially around bus stops and school zones. The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office will have extra deputies around those areas to start the year, according to Sheriff Mike Chitwood.
“You have to slow down and pay attention, no matter what,” Chitwood added. “The moment you look down at your phone might be the moment an innocent child steps into the road. Don’t make a mistake you have to live with for the rest of your life.”
Sheriff Chitwood and Volusia County School Superintendent Tom Russell are asking parents to take time before school starts to remind their kids about being safe while walking or using a bicycle on the streets, including not getting distracted by friends or electronic devices.
“Students may assume a driver sees them, but if the driver is distracted or the student darts out in front of the vehicle, the result can be tragic,” Russell noted. “Please be alert and aware of students traveling to and from school and exercise caution in school zones.”
Teen drivers are urged to be especially cautious. According to VCSO, car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, with nearly one in four fatal crashes involving teen drivers occurring after school.
Below are safety tips from VCSO.
If you drive your children to school:
– Be sure to use the appropriate parent drop-off/pick-up area. Once at the school, please follow the instructions of the school’s staff.
– Drive defensively. Always anticipate the possibility that a child may dart in front of your vehicle. Be prepared to stop at all times.
– During the first couple of weeks, expect traffic patterns around and near schools to be very congested. Leave a few minutes early and plan for extra drive time to get to your destination.
-Slow down and watch out for school zones and children walking or biking to school or congregating near bus stops. Also, be alert for student drivers.
– Obey all posted speed limits.
– Be especially careful in areas with parked vehicles on the side of the road. Children crossing between vehicles may be difficult for you to see.
– Remember that buses will be making frequent stops. It’s not only dangerous to students, but it’s against the law to pass a school bus while it’s stopped on the roadway picking up or dropping off students. And this applies to traffic going in both directions unless the road is divided by a raised barrier or an unpaved median at least five feet wide.
– When turning at an intersection, be sure to yield to pedestrians and cyclists.
If your child is walking to school or a bus stop:
– Plan a safe route and make sure your child knows the route and can navigate it safely.
– Choose the most direct route with the fewest street crossings.
– If a school crossing guard is available, be sure that your child crosses at that location.
– If your child is young or is walking to a new school, walk the route with them beforehand and continue to walk with them for the first week until they’re comfortable with the route.
If you’re a student riding the bus:
– Stay out of the street while waiting for the bus.
– Wait for the bus to come to a complete stop and the doors open before approaching the bus from the curb.
– Stay in clear view of the bus driver. Never walk behind the bus.
– Look both ways before crossing the street to get on the bus.
– After getting off the bus, look both ways and then move immediately onto the sidewalk and out of traffic.
If you’re a student walking or biking to school:
– For bike riders, wear a properly-fitted helmet at all times. Research shows this simple act can reduce the risk of head injury by up to 85%.
– Riders should use a bike that’s the right size for them and make sure they don’t have any loose clothing, drawstrings or shoelaces that can cause an accident.
– Bike riders should ride on the right (in the same direction as traffic), and use appropriate hand signals.
– Bicyclists also should respect traffic lights and stop signs.
– Walk or bike with a friend. It’s safer that way.
– Walk on sidewalks where available.
– Always cross streets at intersections.
– Bikers and walkers should wear bright clothing to make them more visible to drivers.
– To avoid distractions, bikers and walkers shouldn’t use a cell phone or headphones. Absolutely no texting!