On Thursday, 38,000 students in Chatham County will be going back to class and area drivers are being reminded they may need a refresher course themselves in safety.
“We are indeed reminding all of us of the importance of driving safely, ” says Superintendent Dr. Ann Levett of Savannah Chatham County Public Schools.
The school district joined AAA “School’s open, Drive Carefully Campaign” with reminders of why all those who get behind the wheel should be cautious.
“The most dangerous hours are generally from 3 PM to 7 p.m. as those children get home from school and those school zones are open, said Garrett Townsend, AAA. “So just make sure that you’re aware of all those dangers out there .”
Of Chatham County’s 38,000 students, about 22,000 will be riding buses every day. “Anytime you see a bus – stop whether they’re loading or unloading, you need to stop, don’t try to pass the bus,” said Terry Enoch, Chief of Campus Police, Savannah-Chatham Board of Education. “in most cases where accidents happen, they happen when motorists are trying to go around the bus.” The Georgia Department of Education says in the majority of accidents involving school buses, it’s the motorist’s fault, not the bus driver’s. “You have to remember that kids are unpredictable,” said Enoch. “They may end up darting across the street for example (when leaving the bus) and oftentimes they’re so small you can’t see them.”
The biggest danger is for children between the ages of four and seven who may be leaving a bus – but who often can’t be seen by a motorist, especially one in an SUV. So again, drivers are asked not to try to go around a bus and don’t follow a bus too closely.
Here are three rules to follow:
1) On a two lane road with cars traveling in both directions, you have to stop when the bus stops and deploys its stop arm.
2) If you’re on a multi lane road but it does not have a median or a solid divider, vehicles traveling in both directions also have to stop when the bus stops.
3) If you’re on a divided road with an unpaved median or a solid barrier – you have to stop if you’re behind the bus. Vehicles coming the opposite direction may proceed but drivers should always do so with caution and beware that children may be crossing the road in front of you.
Meanwhile, Captain Clint Durrence from the Georgia Department of Public Safety says, “you’ll have more traffic now because the school year is starting back up and there will be more potential for accidents because there are more vehicles on the road..”
Durrence says every year about this time he and others in public safety “cross their fingers” that drivers will follow the rules of the road. He says a lot of problems are still distracted driving. “Being a distracted driver can be caused by several things and cell phones right now I think are the number one issue,” he said.
Drivers, especially teen drivers are urged to remember that texting and driving is off limits and that arriving to your destination safely is the most important thing. Durrence says that includes children arriving safely to school.