Safety first as students head back to school

The first day of school is an exciting time for many Johnson County students – filled with new teachers, new friends and a lot of learning.

But all that excitement and anticipation can make kids and parents a bit careless as they travel to school, according to Buffalo Police Chief Jason Carder.

“The first few weeks especially, kids are so excited to be back at school,” Carder said. “I’ve seen kids just shoot out of their cars and run in front of other vehicles. It is important that drivers are slow and attentive in school zones in order to avoid an unfortunate accident.”

Carder encouraged parents to prepare their students for the back-to-school routine – whether that involves riding in a family car, riding a bicycle or walking. He also said kids should leave earlier than usual for a few weeks so they are not in a rush.

“They should take some extra time to get back into the routine,” Carder said. “When they are rushing to school, there is the potential for danger.”

If walking, bicycling or skateboarding to school, students need to stop at all stop signs, use crosswalks and pay attention to crossing guards, Carder said. They also need to be completely focused, which means phones stay in their pockets until they get to school.

“In just the last few years, we have seen a lot of kids looking down at their phones and not paying attention to the world around them,” Carder said. “That has the potential to be a fatal mistake.”

Kids aren’t the only ones who can be distracted by their phones, Carder said. All drivers in school zones are advised to not take phone calls – at least during the first few weeks of school. Texting and driving is never permissible.

Carder also reminded drivers to stop behind school buses with flashing red lights. The fine for passing a bus with lights flashing is $750, and the Buffalo Police Department has a zero-tolerance policy.

Even kids riding on school buses need to prioritize safety, said Dennis Zezas, Johnson County School District’s transportation director.

“The students’ conduct on the bus should be an extension of their conduct in the classroom,” Zezas said. “That means no distracting the driver, no changing seats while the bus is in motion and keeping all body parts inside the bus at all times. Just following those simple rules will ensure that the kids get to school safely.”

There should be no horseplay at bus stops, and students should wait for the bus to come to a complete stop before boarding, Zezas said. Students are also encouraged to be respectful of the property on which they are waiting for the bus.

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