Court advises drivers to take caution with school back in session

By: Judge Zack Dolyk

Summer is coming to an end.  The 2017-2018 school year for students and faculty of the Vermilion and Firelands Local Schools will begin on August 29. 2017.  This also means that extracurricular activities will be in full swing.  Every year at this time I remind parents and children of the traffic laws specifically pertaining to schools.

Please remember that it is more important for drivers to slow down and pay attention in school zones before and after school hours.  School children will be walking along the streets and busses will be stopping to pick up children at bus stops.  Look out for children crossing the street.  We all know the young children may suddenly dart out into the street.  Make sure you come to a complete stop at all intersections with stop signs.  With the weather still being nice, children may be riding their bikes to and from school.  Slow down and allow at least four feet of passing distance between your vehicle and any bicyclist.  When backing up carefully check your blind spots.  Watch for children on sidewalks, driveways or around your vehicle, then slowly back up with caution.  Avoid any distractions that may take your attention away from driving, such as cell phones, navigational aids or in-car entertainment systems.

When dropping off your child at school there are specific drop-off procedures for each school.  Make sure you know them for the safety of all children.  While riding in a car, all children should wear a seat belt.  Younger children should use car seats or booster seats.  Drivers should not use their cell phone to text or make calls and should avoid eating or drinking while driving.  According to the National Safe Routes to School program the following applies to all school zones:  Do not double park; it blocks visibility for other children and vehicles.  Do not load or unload children across the street from the school.  If possible, carpool to reduce the number of vehicles at the school.

While in a school zone do not block a crosswalk.  Always stop when flashers are blinking and stop and yield to pedestrians crossing the crosswalk or intersection.  Take extra care to look out for children in school zones, near playgrounds and parks and in all residential areas.

If your children walk or ride a bicycle to and from school, please review some of the following guidelines with them.

Plan a walking route to and from school or the bus stop.  Choose the most direct way with the fewest street crossing.  Parents should walk this route with their child before school begins.

Stay on the sidewalk at all times.  If there are no sidewalks you should walk facing traffic, in a single file.  Cross the street only at a corner or a crosswalk.  Never cross between parked cars.  Look both ways before crossing the street.  Teach your children to pay attention to their surroundings, not their cell phones, while walking.

Bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as vehicles while on most roads.  When riding a bike you always should wear a helmet and ride on the right in the same direction as the traffic is going.  When passing a bicyclist, proceed in the same direction slowly and leave 3 feet between your car and the cyclist.

Watch for bike riders turning in front of you without looking or signally, especially children.  Watch for bikes coming from driveways or behind parked cars.  Check your side mirrors before opening your door.

When you exercise a little extra caution, drivers and pedestrians everyone is safer.

There are a number of traffic laws specifically pertaining to schools.  Ohio Revised Code Section 4511.21(B)(c) defines a school zone as “that portion of a street or highway passing a school fronting upon the street or highway that is encompassed by projecting the school property lines to the fronting street or highway, and also includes that portion of a state highway”.

The speed limit in school zones in the State of Ohio is 20 mph during school and during the opening and closing hours for schools.  Signs designating the start of the school zone are required.  Drivers must be alert at all times for children.    Crosswalks can be easily missed if you are not paying close attention.  Use caution while in a school zone and make sure pedestrians are not crossing the street.  It is wise not to use cell phones while in a school zone also texting while operating a motor vehicle is prohibited in the City of Vermilion.

Under Ohio law the fines for speeding in a school zone are automatically doubled.  A misdemeanor speeding offense carries a maximum possible penalty of $150.00 plus court costs.  Speeding violations in Ohio also result in points being added to a driver’s license.  Points remain on your license for two years.

The National Safety Council research shows that the majority of children who lose their lives in bus-related incidents are 4 to 7 years old and are walking.  They are either hit by the bus or by a motorist illegally passing a stopped bus.

Every year, we have a number of citations for motorists who ignored the flashing red lights on a stopped school bus.  Young children do not always pay attention when they are crossing the road to be picked up or discharged from a school bus.

It may be frustrating following a school bus that makes frequent stops but safety should be everyone’s first priority.  Ohio Revised Code 4511.75 provides that a driver of a vehicle meeting or overtaking a school bus stopped to pick up or drop off children “shall stop at least ten feet from the front or rear of the school bus and shall not proceed until such school bus resumes motion or until signaled by the school bus driver to proceed.”  If a bus is stopped on a road that has fewer than four lanes all traffic proceeding in either direction must stop.  If a bus is stopped on a highway that has four or more lanes only traffic proceeding in the same direction as the bus must stop.

All motorists need to know the school bus signals.  Do not pass a school bus that has red alternating flashing lights on.  This is the signal that the bus is stopped to load or unload children.  Traffic should not move until the bus resumes motion or the driver signals traffic to proceed.

When a bus has alternating flashing amber (yellow) lights on, it is preparing to stop to load or unload children.  Be ready to stop and watch for children in the roadway.

If someone passes a stopped school bus the school bus driver can file an informational report with the local police department who follows up with an investigation and may file charges.  The Ohio Legislature has mandated a doubling of fines for these traffic offenses.  In addition to a fine and costs you may have your driver’s license suspended for a period of one year.

Parents should also talk to their children about school bus safety rules.

A child should stand away from the curb while waiting for the bus to arrive.   Make sure your child knows that there should be no pushing or shoving while waiting at the bus stop. The most dangerous zones are the front and back area of the bus.  A child should always stay in clear view of the bus driver and never walk behind the bus.

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