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ALEA shares safety rules for return to school

As summer draws to a close and students head back to school, family life can become extremely busy. The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency is encouraging all citizens to take a moment and share important safety reminders with their children and loved ones as students return to the classrooms.

“The beginning of the school year is an exciting time for many,” said ALEA secretary Hal Taylor, “and we encourage all motorists to be mindful and aware of school buses and overall safety concerns in school zones.

“After a summer of driving without school bus drop-offs and pick-ups, or groups of children walking to and from school, motorists often forget the challenges that may arise while driving in or near school zones. Preparation and patience are two key principles that, when implemented correctly, help to ensure a safe and successful year for everyone when traveling to and from your destinations.”

ALEA is encouraging all parents to sit down with their children and discuss safety prior to the first day – with particular emphasis on safety principles for 16-year-old students who recently have obtained their driver’s licenses and plan to drive themselves to school for the first time.

Parents and their young drivers should review Alabama’s Graduated Driver License law and fully understand the restrictions.

It’s a message Franklin County officials are echoing: Be careful on local roadways, especially if you are a new driver.

“Young drivers often don’t realize the gravity of the dangers faced while driving – how fragile life is in a vehicle,” said Heath Grimes, Russellville City Schools superintendent. “The construction we have going on at the high school is creating more traffic than usual right now, and that’s something we should all be aware of.”

“With our students back in school, we need to be especially mindful of being cautious when driving near school zones,” said Russellville Mayor David Grissom. “Many students will be new drivers and still getting comfortable on the road. It’s important they realize the dangers of distracted driving in all its forms, including phones, music and passengers.”

“Even a momentary distraction can have disastrous results,” added Grimes.

ALEA urges everyone to use the following tips for young drivers:

  • Make trial runs to school and back to familiarize the new driver with the best route and possibly determine at least one alternate route.
  • Expect heavier traffic, at least for the first week, and leave home early.
  • Obey speed limits and other rules of the road.
  • Do not drive while distracted by cell phone, stereo, passengers or anything else that takes your eyes off the road.
  • Buckle up no matter how short the trip – and make sure all occupants in the vehicle have buckled.
  • Remember Alabama’s GDL restricts 16-year-old drivers from having more than one non-family member in the vehicle when driving.

The agency also reminds everyone to promote safety throughout the school year by following these tips:

  • Slow down and be alert, particularly in areas near school zones.
  • In a school zone with blinking flashers, stop and yield to pedestrians crossing the crosswalk or at an intersection.
  • Never pass a vehicle that has stopped for pedestrians.
  • Students should only cross a street at a crosswalk or designated intersection once they make eye contact with drivers and are certain the vehicles will stop.
  • Watch out for children on bicycles and leave 3 feet between your vehicle and the cyclist when passing them.
  • Watch for bikes coming down driveways or from behind vehicles parked on the street.
  • Do not load or unload children across the street from the school – unless instructed to do so.
  • Be aware of school bus stops and drive cautiously in the area, preparing to stop quickly should a child dart out into the street.
  • Consider working with other parents to designate an adult to supervise children at the bus stop each morning.

In Red Bay, the local police department is counting on an expanded police presence to help make sure the school year begins smoothly and safely.

“We will have extra patrols in school zones,” said Red Bay Police Chief Janna Jackson. “We ask everyone to observe speed limits and use caution to ensure the safety of our children. Please watch for school buses stopping to load or unload students.

“We look forward to a safe school year for everyone.”