Next Wednesday, hundreds of Johnson County young people will roll out of bed and ready themselves for a new school year.

As students make their way back to the classroom, it’s important to remember that we all need to make a concerted effort to be more cautious behind the wheel.

Most students are excited for what’s to come. They have their new duds, their backpacks stuffed with fresh supplies and plans for whom they want to sit by at lunch. Some will see friends they haven’t seen all summer. Some just want to get their lockers and desks set up. Some will have their headphones in, listening to their favorite tunes. But all of them will likely have lots on their minds that morning as they make their way to school, and that means they might be distracted.

It’s important to talk to your children about how to safely and properly cross the street. If they are riding a bike, remind them to wear a helmet and walk their bikes across the crosswalk. If they are walking, remind them to look both ways before crossing the street. Bicyclists should ride with traffic. If students have to walk where there is no sidewalk, remind them to walk against traffic so oncoming cars can see them. Remind students not to be distracted walkers or bikers and to focus on what lies ahead.

The Buffalo Police Department reminds people every year to slow down in school zones and near crosswalks. There will be students biking, skateboarding and walking.

It’s especially important to stop for a school bus with flashing lights. The fine for passing a school bus with flashing lights is $750, and Buffalo Police Chief Jason Carder said his office has a zero-tolerance policy.

For parents with teen drivers, remind them how important it is to focus on the road.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, speeding was a factor in 31 percent of teen driver fatalities in 2016.

One in three teens who text report they have done so while driving. According to the traffic safety administration, texting drivers are 23 times more likely to crash. Make sure to talk to your student drivers about the rules and responsibilities involved with driving.   

The National Safety Council provides various tips to ensure our youngsters’ safety. For parents dropping off their children, the council suggests not double-parking as it blocks visibility for other children; don’t load or unload children across the street from the school; and consider carpooling, as it reduces the number of vehicles. The council also reminds drivers not to block the crosswalk when stopped at a red light and to always stop for a school patrol officer or crossing guard holding up a stop sign.

When passing a bicycle, according to the council, be sure to proceed slowly and leave 3 feet between the car and the cyclist; if you’re turning right and a cyclist is approaching from behind on the right, let the rider go through the intersection first; watch for bikes coming from driveways or behind parked cars; and check side mirrors before opening your door.

By slowing down and eliminating distractions, we can each do our part to ensure this school year is a safe one.

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