Back-to-school can cause havoc on roads
Bad news Connecticut commuters -- the days of sailing through your morning drive to work with relative speed are nearly over.
With many schools in the region resuming classes this week, expect a bit more company on the roads, in the form of parents ferrying their children to school, sometimes making multiple stops to pick up and drop off young students. Drivers can also expect to see the sidewalks peppered with children walking or riding their bikes to school.
"Usually, the first week or so of school, it's a bit busier on the roads than normal because bus drivers are still figuring out routes and parents are driving kids to school, even though they could, should or plan on taking the bus," Mayko said. "So there's a lot of `activity' going on that drivers need to be aware of. It stands to reason that, the more traffic on the road, the riskier it gets for drivers and pedestrians."
Though accidents involving school buses or young pedestrians are relatively rare, they do happen. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that between 2000 and 2009, there were 1,245 fatal traffic crashes deemed school transportation-related, with 1,386 people killed in these crashes.
Over that same time period, 130 pedestrians younger than 19 died in school transportation-related crashes. More than two-thirds of these were struck by school buses and roughly another third were hit by other vehicles.
The traffic safety data also showed the worst time of day for these crashes was between 3 and 4 p.m.
Due to these risks, local law enforcement personnel advised caution on the roadways. In particular, you need to respect the iconic big yellow school buses that will be lumbering onto the streets soon, said State Police spokesman Lt. J. Paul Vance. When a bus displays its flashing red signal lights, other motorists need to stop within 10 feet of it to allow children to safely board or depart.
"Passing a standing school bus is extremely dangerous," Vance said. It's also illegal and typically carries a fine of about $465, he said.
Trumbull Deputy Police Chief Michael Harry was sympathetic to the plight of motorists sharing the road with school buses -- particularly those that stop multiple times on the same street, causing a line of traffic to form behind them.
"People get frustrated," Harry said.
With Trumbull resuming classes on Monday, he implored drivers to put the safety of children before their need to move more quickly. "Young children in particular are excited to being going back to school and see their friends again," Harry said. "So they're not really going to be attuned to the drivers on the road and what they're doing."
So, he said, drivers have to accommodate by being extra cautious. If you're really worried about getting delayed by a poky school bus, he said, try leaving a little bit earlier.
In Milford, where children return to school Wednesday, Lt. Vaughan Dumas said parents should also do what they can to keep their kids safe as they travel to school. For instance, younger children who walk to school should be accompanied by an adult chaperone. Also, Dumas advised having kids walk on the side of the street that faces the flow of traffic.
Though accommodating for the shift in traffic patterns might be tricky for motorists and pedestrians to master at first, Harry said the period of adjustment is usually mercifully short.
"After a couple weeks, people get used to it," he said.
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