SIKESTON Students across Missouri are preparing to begin their 2020-2021 school year with some schools have already begun their new year and others starting up this week.
With many students returning to Missouris colleges and universities, motorists could experience increased traffic on major highways over these next several weeks, which is why the Missouri State Highway Patrol encourages pedestrians and motorists to have a heightened awareness as the new school year begins.
The Missouri State Highway Patrol reminds drivers this brings a change in traffic patterns school buses and parents taking their children to school and many young drivers will join other motorists on the road and affect the morning and afternoon commute, said Capt. John J. Hotz with the Patrol.
In good weather, pedestrian and bicycle traffic increases close to schools. It is critical for drivers to be alert, especially near school zones, playgrounds, and bicycle paths.
Whatever route you drive, expect this additional traffic and prepare by allowing extra time to reach your destination, Hotz said.
In 2019, three people were killed and 471 people were injured in 1,015 traffic crashes involving school buses. Parents are encouraged to talk to their children about riding a bus, walking, or driving to school in a safe manner. If they ride a bike, please make sure they wear a helmet and follow traffic laws.
Missouri law states that on a two-lane road, if a school bus is stopped and displaying warning signals while loading or unloading children, drivers must stop when meeting and following the bus. However, it is only necessary to stop on a four-lane highway when following the bus. Drivers, when you see a stopped school bus, stay alert and follow the law. Children may not be aware of traffic and dart unexpectedly into the roadway.
Most traffic crashes involving young drivers (under the age of 21) occur between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., when school typically lets out.
Many of these drivers are young and inexperienced. Parents: It is important to encourage those young drivers to remember driving is a full-time job, Hotz said. Using a cell phone, texting, or adjusting the radio can be the distraction that leads to a traffic crash.
Texting is against the law for anyone under the age of 22.
Every driver needs to be aware of the increased traffic during this timeand not just in areas around schools. Some of these young drivers are headed to an after-school activity or going to work.
Too many people die in traffic crashes each year in Missouri, Hotz continued. The choices you make when youre behind the wheel matter. Make good choices, so youll never have to say, If I could just go back
School personnel, parents and students are also reminded of the Courage2ReportMO program, which provides a safe and confidential way to report any concerns regarding their safety or the safety of others. These concerns may include: assault, bullying/repeated harassment, cyber bullying, fighting, guns, homicide, human trafficking, knife, planned school attack, imminent school shooting, school shooting threat, sexual offense, suicide-other person (3rd party), or a terrorism threat (extremism). Those reporting their concerns may remain anonymous.
Concerned persons may submit a C2R report through an Apple or Google Play mobile app, by making an online report via https://www.Courage2ReportMO.com, or by speaking confidentially to a trained professional at 866-748-7047.
Back-to-school traffic reminders
The Missouri Department of Transportation also urged motorists to slow down and pay attention as more children will be on or near roadways, walking and bicycling to school or waiting for the busmost for the first time in several months.
Here are some back to school safe driving reminders:
Buckle Up Phone Down! These four words are never more important than during the school year. Looking away from the roadway to send a text message doubles the chance of being involved in a crash. Avoid using your cellphone or any other activity that might take attention away from the roadway. And set a good example for your young passengers by making sure everyone in the vehicle is buckled in.
Expect the unexpected! When backing out of a driveway or leaving a garage, watch out for children walking or bicycling to school. Remember, children in groups or who are arriving late for the bus may dart into the street without looking for traffic.
Do not pass! It is a state law that vehicles in both lanes must stop when a school bus has its red warning lights flashing and the stop sign is extended.
Slow down! Watch for school zones where speed limits are reduced.
Parents and caregivers should talk to children about bus stop and traffic safety rules. Here are a few tips:
Always stay in sight of the bus driver! Make eye contact when possible. Assume drivers cannot see you and never walk behind a school bus.
Dont hurry off the bus! Make sure to check traffic first.
Use sidewalks where available! If you must walk in the street, walk single file facing traffic.
Be alert! Avoid using cellphones, ear buds and hand-held games as they can be a distraction.
Use caution! When crossing a streetin a crosswalk or at a cornerlook left, then right, then left again. Wait until all cars are stopped or the road is clear before stepping outthat means all cars in all lanes in all directions.