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Safety tips for back to school

JENNA-LEY HARRISON
Staff Writer

As a fresh school year starts Monday for Lincoln County teachers, parents and schoolchildren, Sheriff David Carpenter reminded the community of certain school zone safety precautions in order to cut down on the rate of traffic crashes, the leading cause of death for North Carolina teens, and other incidents involving injured pedestrians.
Nearly 20 school-aged children perish in vehicle collisions annually across the country, according to stats from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) listed in a Sheriff’s Office press release. In addition, young pedestrians are often struck and killed between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., the hour most educational facilities release students for the day, the NHTSA said. Students dart out in traffic and due to the excitement of the school day’s end are often not aware of their surroundings, Carpenter said.
In order to prevent such tragic incidents, he encouraged parents to drive their children’s bus routes, simultaneously teaching them the appropriate safety guidelines, the release said.
Among specific tips parents should enforce with students prior to the school year’s commencement include arriving early at the bus stop, standing several steps away from the curb and making eye contact with the driver, ensuring the child has been spotted. Children should additionally keep loose clothing items and all other accessories out of the bus’s handrail and door area, never stand behind the bus and always walk on the sidewalk rather than roadway.
Carpenter pointed out motorists must equally exercise driving safety and stay mindful of children’s presence near school zones, always remembering to slow down or stop for flashing bus lights.
The use of school buses both prevents the potential for additional traffic collisions and promotes cleaner air as each bus keeps an equivalent of 36 passenger vehicles off area roadways, saving an overall national average of $6 billion in fuel and nearly 50 billion pounds in carbon dioxide, according to American School Bus Council stats listed on the NHTA website.
While Lincoln County’s crash rates have steadily declined across the area since 2005, with a total of 4 fatal wrecks since January, compared to 10 last year and 23 in 2007, nearly 300 individuals have been injured in county vehicle collisions in 2012, the site said.
Troopers with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol also plan to promote safe roadways across the county during this month’s first week of school, which starts Aug. 27, in order to “keep the commute to and from school safe for all students,” Sgt. B. Hipp told the Times-News.
The project calls for amping up law enforcement presence in and around school zones. Troopers will also monitor bus stops for traffic violations and other school-related events such as extracurricular activities and school dances, Hipp said.
For more traffic safety precautions, visit nhtsa.gov.

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