VEHICLE SAFETY ELEMENTS—PART 2
Two weeks ago, I started a theme related to vehicle safety. I would like to continue that theme in this week’s article.
As I noted last time, we have had considerable discussion about various elements of school safety. We have taken significant steps to improve safety within our facilities. One area that we continue to need to emphasize is that of vehicle safety.
Some of the vehicle safety issues are difficult to change because they involves behaviors, choices and habits people have developed or make without thinking about the issues.
REVIEW—LOADING AND YELLOW ZONES
We use the parking lot between the secondary building and Cold Spring Elementary School as our bus unloading zone in the morning and loading zone in the afternoon. In order to provide a safe zone for students, we close the area to traffic.
Before school, beginning about 7:50 a.m., we have buses coming through the parking lot to drop off students for the school day. The process is complete within about 20 minutes. At the end of the day, buses move into the parking lot to take students home. Our school dismissal time is 3:00 and by 3:10, all students are on the buses. They begin to take students home.
Traffic through the parking lot during these times, is a safety hazard to everyone—but especially to our students. During the loading and unloading times, we need all other vehicles to stay out of these areas.
We learn in Driver’s Training that if an area is identified with yellow (yellow lines and curb paint), it means “stay out of the area”. As a school district, we follow that simple rule. Every yellow curb or yellow zone on our campus means that parking is prohibited in that space.
We want to encourage students, staff, and visitors to our schools to observe and respect the caution zones and restricted areas of the district.
Minnesota traffic laws give considerable respect to pedestrians. During the summer months, we have reminders (in our communities) that vehicles must stop for pedestrians who are in designated crosswalks. The reason for the signs and reminders is to simply help us understand and remember that pedestrians are extended protections from vehicles. It is important for all of us, as drivers, to remember pedestrian rights.
When we come to issues at a school setting, I would hope that the attentiveness of drivers would be even greater for pedestrians—or those who are walking in or around the school campus.
Although we provide transportation for students, we also encourage as many students as possible to make a healthy choice of walking to school. We have pursued, and continue to pursue, grants to develop and improve “Safe Routes to School.” Developing and improving safe routes to school, encourages our students and staff to walk to and from the school site.
As students walk, it is important for our drivers, visitors, and vehicle traffic to be attentive to the pedestrian students. When students are at a designated crosswalk, especially those near the school building, we want to encourage drivers to exercise caution and apply the principle that pedestrians have the right of way.
An example would be at the crossing near the parking lot on the County Road 50 entrance to the school. Quite often, I see students having to wait at the crosswalk for cars to pass because the vehicles do not slow down or stop to allow students to cross. Of course, it is also important to monitor the other traffic around the driver, but Minnesota law gives the person in the crosswalk the ability to cross!
The same principle is true on the campus, as well. As students move to and from the buses, to and from their personal vehicles, or simply move across campus, it is our expectation that the vehicles will stop to allow the students or staff to safely cross in front. We encourage students to use the crosswalks—that is the safest way to cross a street—but we also want drivers to observe pedestrian movement and yield to pedestrians.
Many of the cases we observe or experience could be prevented by the simple application of common sense. If drivers and pedestrians are observant and attentive to their surroundings, it helps a great deal!
Although pedestrians do have the right to cross in a designated crosswalk, it doesn’t mean the walker should just step out into traffic and assume everyone will stop—especially if traffic is moving at faster speeds! Pedestrians have a responsibility to monitor traffic and step into the crosswalk when it is appropriate to do so!
Drivers have a responsibility to observe and be attentive to all “traffic” issues around them. This includes watching ahead in order to determine if or when a pedestrian might be expected to enter a crosswalk. Attentiveness involves an awareness of the surroundings so that appropriate caution might be exercised.
Because we are a school campus, it is reasonable to expect that there will be people all across the site. Students might come out from between cars, cross in unexpected areas, and potentially (because of size) be less visible than adults. Caution should be exercised all around a school campus! Common sense would include being more attentive, expecting the “unexpected” and having a general understanding that students and staff will be moving around.
Safety and security are important elements anywhere but they are especially important in school settings. As a district, we have worked hard to improve and strengthen a wide variety of safety measures—inside and outside our buildings across all our campuses.
One area in which we can continually improve is that of vehicle safety. By observing the bus loading zones as well as the yellow restricted parking zones across the district, we can help to ensure student and public safety. By remembering basic traffic rules including the rights of pedestrians, we can enhance safety measures as well.
Application of common sense in addition to remembering core traffic rules, will definitely improve safety for our students.