PLATTSBURGH — Police and the Department of Transportation urge drivers to use caution to protect school-age children from car accidents now that classes are underway.
“It is so important to recognize that the start of the school year increases the numbers of children moving through our neighborhoods during the early morning and afternoon hours, when motorists are also attempting to meet the time demands of their busy day,” New York State Police Troop B Commander Major Richard Smith Jr. said in a press release.
Car accidents are the leading cause of death for children ages 5 to 14 years old, it says.
Smith said children transitioning from summer vacation to the new school year are apt to be less careful and that drivers should be particularly alert for children darting out from between parked cars on busy streets.
GIVE STUDENTS SPACE
State DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald says drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists have a responsibility to share the road.
Under state law, it is illegal to pass a school bus that is stopped to load or unload students.
Traffic from both directions must stop until the bus driver turns off the flashing red lights and withdraws the extended stop sign.
The area 10 feet around a school bus is where children are in the most danger of being struck by a passing vehicle, DOT said in a press release, so motorists should stop their cars far enough from the bus to give students room to enter or exit the bus.
Drivers should not only exercise caution in school zones, but in all areas where children gather, such as playgrounds, parks and residential areas, DOT said.
All pedestrians should use sidewalks when available. If they aren’t, people should walk on the left side of the road, facing traffic.
Bicyclists should travel with traffic.
Pedestrians should use crosswalks when crossing the road, since that is where they are most visible to motorists, DOT said.
State law requires drivers to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk.
“School zones mean school bus traffic, school speed zones and children walking. By being alert and obeying traffic laws, the public can help law enforcement keep our children safe,” said State Police Superintendent Joseph D’Amico.
The State Police awareness initiative is part of the American Automobile Association’s annual “School’s Open — Drive Carefully” campaign.
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