ITD urges caution for motorists, children as schools reopen

Playgrounds and classrooms, lonely places for the past three months, are attracting crowds again as schools across Idaho open for the academic year. School openings, while exciting for children, their parents and teachers, also bring renewed traffic concerns.

With a little diligence by motorists and school children, the return to school can be safe and accident freee.
ITD wants to make those returns as safe as possible for more than 275,000 children, their parents and their schools. The Office of Highway Operations and Safety, the Safe Routes to School program and ITD administrators encourage parents and children to take measures that will make transportation to school safer.

Flashing yellow lights and fluorescent signs clearly identify most school zones and pedestrian/bicycle crossings in Idaho.
Drivers who fail to slow down to school zone speeds (generally posted at 20 mph or slower) pay enhanced fines as a result of legislation passed in 2008. State law requires a minimum fine of $75, plus $41.50 in court costs for school zone violations. Local jurisdictions have the authority to establish higher fines.
Unless otherwise posted, school zone speed limits do not apply on non-school days. The posted speed limit signs indicate the school zone, the reduced speed limit and one of the following:

• Hours of the day when the speed limit is in effect
• The speed limit is in effect when an electrical or mechanical sign indicates, or
• The speed limit is in effect at all times on school days

Some schools also use crossing guards at intersections. Motorists are required to slow or stop as the guards dictate.
Motorists who have grown accustomed to driving unimpeded through the zones the past three months will need to renew their vigilance. They also will need to watch for inattentive children stepping from curbs, meandering bicycles straying into the traffic lane and buses stopped for student loading and unloading.
School children also share a responsibility to be aware of increased traffic along primary school routes. Parents and teachers should encourage children to watch for distracted drivers and realize that cars may not slow for flashing lights or crossing guards.
Awareness and anticipation are keys to ensuring the next nine months are free of casualties and enabling children and vehicles to coexist safely. Take nothing for granted, and do not assume others know of your presence or intentions.
To reduce the risk that children face on their journey to and from school, ITD has created an ambitious Safe Routes to School program. Through an annual budget of about $1 million, the office provides grant funds for infrastructure improvements and educational and incentive programs to local school districts, cities, counties and highway districts.
Many improvements to bicycle and pedestrian paths, crosswalks and crossing signs already have been completed. Others are in the process. Educational programs also are being designed in many school districts to prepare children for safe travel to schools.

Published 8-12-2011