Brittney Burns – Staff Writer

Macon County students will head back to school on Monday, meaning traffic in the mornings and afternoons may be a little heavier than usual.

“We are excited about school year 2016-17,” said Macon County Schools Superintendent Dr. Chris Baldwin. “Many teachers returned to work last week and began planning exciting activities for our students to work on in school year 2016-17. Bus drivers also received training last week and are looking forward to safely transporting students in the coming school year.  All employees of the Macon County School system from the bus drivers to the Board of Education want our students and staff to have a successful and safe school year.  We ask that motorists be extra aware on Monday morning as students arrive at the bus stops and our buses return to the road ways.”

MVI MMS intersection
The intersection at Macon Middle School and Mountain View Intermediate School was upgraded over the summer. The improvements may cause congestion with school starting back. Photo by MaconQuad/Chris Hanners

Driving through a school zone can be dangerous for both pedestrians and drivers if safety isn’t a priority. Statistics show that when you drive through a school zone at 10 miles an hour instead of 15, you are two-thirds less likely to strike and kill a pedestrian. About 25 million students nationwide begin and end their day with a trip on a school bus.

“While we all live busy lives and are always in a hurry, please take time to be extra cautious of the fact that the young people of our community may be excited about heading to school and making new friends and may not be so cautious,” said Macon County Sheriff Robert Holland. “Allow yourselves a few extra minutes in travel time and slow down. There will be extra patrols in school zones watching for those who are careless and in a hurry.”

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data, from 2004 to 2013, 327 school-age children died in school-transportation-related crashes; 54 were occupants of school transportation vehicles, 147 were occupants of other vehicles, 116 were pedestrians, and nine were pedalcyclists. More school-age pedestrians are killed between the hours of 7 and 8 a.m. and between 3 and 4 p.m than any other hours of the day.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and other sources offers these tips to prepare for the 2016-17 school year:

– Motorists should drive with extra caution around children going to/from school:

– Obey signs, signals, and crossing guards in school zones.

– Slow down especially with children walking/biking to school and around bus stops and in school zones and in low light or bad weather.

– Learn and obey the school bus laws in your state.

– Drive focused and alert at all times. Avoid use of electronic devices and other distracting behaviors while driving.

– Ensure everyone in the vehicle is buckled up properly and that children are in the back seat in the proper seat.

– Drop off so the child does not have to cross the street, and then avoid U-turns.

– Look for and expect to see pedestrians and bicyclists, especially before and after school.

School bus riders are safest when children:

– Stay three giant steps (six feet) away from the curb when waiting for the bus; and when the school bus arrives, wait until the driver says to board.

– Quickly board the school bus, find a seat, sit facing the front, and do what the school bus driver and safety patrols say to do.

– Getting off the bus, cross in front at least five giant steps (10 feet) away and look left-right-left for traffic. Wait for the driver to signal it is safe to cross

Walking to school is safer when children:

– Walk with an adult, responsible older sibling, or in a group.

– Walk on the sidewalk if there is one, or walk facing traffic as close to the edge as possible.

– Walk focused and alert. Never use electronics when crossing the street.

– Pay attention to their surroundings and don’t play with, push or shove others.

– Cross at a corner, in a crosswalk, or with a pedestrian WALK signal.

– Stop and look left-right-left for all traffic, including bicycles, before crossing. Cross only when it is clear.

– Wear bright colors and/or use lights or reflective gear to be more visible to motorists.

Biking to and from school is safer when children and adults alike:

– Wear and buckle a properly fit helmet every ride.

– Wear bright colors and/or use lights or reflective wear to be more visible to motorists.

– Have a good grasp of traffic safety rules including riding in the same direction as traffic and stopping at all stop signs and signals.

– Choose safe routes to ride, including streets with lower traffic volume and speeds.

– Ride focused and alert—never using electronics or both ear buds while riding.