Officials urge caution during back to school hours


HATTIESBURG, Miss. - The roads will soon be pack this week with schools back in session. Officials are urging drivers and travelers to be cautious of their surroundings.

Mississippi Highway Patrol (MHP) Brent Barfield said, "It is very important that people pay attention to their surroundings especially during the hours that school is going to be taken in."

According to the National Safe Route to School Program, more children are hit by cars near schools than any other location.

"You have to pay attention when you are behind the wheel of the vehicle, especially in school zones" said Barfield.

He said all school zones are marked with speed limit signs and drivers should yield to it.

Barfield added, "Traffic is going to pick up, it is going to be a hurry up and wait type of situation in the school zones, and you just got to be patient and pay attention so everyone can get out in a safe manner."

Lamar county Superintendent Tess Smith urged all students and drivers to stop, look, and listen.

She said, "We have crossing guards near our place, go to that crossing guard, do not try to cross on your own."

Smith said traffic safety education begins at home, she even witnessed her own son put himself in near danger.

"I was scared as a parent" added Smith.

"He and I talked about safety and his bus driver helped me also, she told him that she will even wave him across the highway and said do not try to step on the roadway ever unless I signal you" said Smith.

The Mississippi Department of Transportation offers helpful tips for children and parents:

When Dropping Off:

· Don’t park alongside another parked vehicle; it blocks visibility for other children and vehicles

· Don’t load or unload children across the street from their school

· If possible, carpool to reduce the number of vehicles at the school

Sharing the Road with Young Pedestrians:

· Don’t block crosswalks when stopped at red lights or while waiting to make a turn. This often forces

pedestrians to walk around the vehicle and enter the path of traffic

· Always yield to pedestrians at crosswalks and intersections, especially when flashers are blinking in a school

zone

· Always stop for crossing guards and patrol officers

· Don’t honk or rev your engine to scare a pedestrian, even if you have the right of way

· Never pass a vehicle stopped for pedestrians

Sharing the Road with School Buses:

· Never pass a bus from behind – or from either direction if you're on an undivided road – if it is stopped to load

or unload children

· If the yellow or red lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended, traffic must stop

· The area 10 feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for children; stop far enough back to allow them

space to safely enter and exit the bus

· Allow for a greater following distance behind a bus than if you were driving behind a car

Sharing the Road with Bicycles:

· When passing a bicyclist, proceed slowly and leave 3 feet between your car and the cyclist

· When turning left and a bicyclist is approaching in the opposite direction, wait for the rider to pass

· Watch for bike riders turning in front of you without looking or signaling; children especially have a tendency to

do this. Watch for bikes coming from driveways or behind parked cars

· Check side mirrors before opening your door

New Teen Drivers:

· Always make sure you and all passengers are wearing seat belts

· Obey all speed limits

· Don’t make assumptions about what other drivers, cyclists or pedestrians are going to do

· Always watch for kids getting on and off school buses

· Don’t use a cell phone while driving

If motorists travel with caution and care, everyone will be able to reach their weekday destinations safely.

For more safety tips and information, visit www.GoMDOT.com/safetyeducation, or follow and like @MississippiDOT on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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