Back to school means safety first
by Dawn M. Kurry Richmond County Daily Journal
Being safe while heading back to school will involve more than looking both ways before crossing the street. Law enforcement officers are encouraging parents, teachers and the community to work together to ensure everyone’s safety as the school year beings.
The NC State Highway Patrol has its eye on schools in Richmond County this year, according to State Highway Patrol’s First Sgt. Andreas Dietrich, which includes a Highway Patrol Safety Initiative, “making safety in and out of schools a priority,” he said.
School Zone Driving
“The first few weeks of the school year we’ll have a visible presence,” said Dietrich. “We will be in zones, to deter speeding and reckless driving.”
Dietrich said he wants new drivers and parents to remember that each school has a different traffic pattern. Parents should realize that new drivers may not be aware of new patterns. Leave a few minutes early, and have patience with other drivers.
Dietrich said, as a deterrent, speeding in school zones results in a $250 fine with a possible $190 in court costs.
“I want people to be aware of school buses running their routes,” said Dietrich. “Passing a stopped school bus is a mandatory court appearance and carries five points on a drivers license.”
When a school bus is displaying a mechanical stop signal or flashing lights, all other vehicles approaching from any direction on same road have to come to complete stop and remain stopped until the signal has been withdrawn, flashing lights turned off and the bus has started to move.
“On a two-lane highway everyone approaching the school bus has to stop,” said Dietrich. “On a two-lane highway with a turning lane, everyone still has to stop. On a four-lane road with no median, everyone has to stop. On a four-lane road with a median, carrier or turning lane, those traveling in the opposite direction of the school bus don’t have to stop.”
“A concern of ours is teenage driving,” said Dietrich. “Last school year, 10.9 percent of reportable collisions in Richmond County involved drivers 15-19 years old. Also, 14.6 percent of injury collisions involved teens. Last school year, we had no fatalities involving teenage drivers.”
Last school year the highway patrol investigated a total of 727 collisions across all age groups, he said.
Last school year 6.2 percent of occupants in collisions did not use or improperly used seat belts, which could mean under the arm, or fastened behind the back.
In Richmond County last school year the top five contributing circumstances to collisions were unsafe movement, failure to yield, exceeding legal speed, failure to reduce speed, or driving on the wrong side of the road.
School Safety Checks
“People are not aware that school safety on and off the road and in the schools is a priority for Highway Patrol,” said Dietrich. “Last spring we started to assign troopers to visit schools, in order to interact with administrators, staff and students. We call these School Safety Checks.”
The State Highway Patrol documented 32 School Safety Checks last school year in Richmond County.
“Starting this week, we will put troopers back on schedule to conduct school visits,” said Dietrich, in case parents see a trooper “we don’t want them to think anything is wrong. They are there as a visible deterrent. We call it community policing.”
Keeping an eye out
The State Highway Patrol wants everyone to participate in keeping the community safe, and that includes helping teach teenagers safe driving practices and watching out for things that seem out of place.
“We want to remind everyone to drive safely and be alert in and around the school zones,” said Dietrich. “I would ask that the parents practice and instill safe driving techniques in their teenage drivers. If you see someone driving recklessly or dangerously in a school zone, please report them to the agency.”
Dietrich suggests that if you see a suspicious vehicle or person, report it to the school staff — don’t investigate it yourself.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.
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