New school year prompts warning for extra caution

Despite the pervasive heat in Idaho, the dog days of summer are quickly fading. Many children have embarked on their annual march back to school or are feverishly preparing for their first day.

The advent of another school year brings a significant increase in pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle traffic near schools. ITD encourages motorists to be especially careful when driving through school zones, encountering school buses on the highway and while delivering and picking up children.

ITD wants to make the return to school as safe as possible for more than 275,000 children, their parents and their schools. The Office of Highway Safety, the Safe Routes to School program Idaho law enforcement agencies collectively call for increased school zone awareness.

They urge parents, guardians and school representatives to share safety messages with children to ensure safe morning and afternoon commutes.

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.
Drivers who have grown accustomed to traveling 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.

See tips for improving safe school commuting.

Published 8-24-2012