School year brings familiar hazards

Motorists should be alert for children

By The Mercury

The day long awaited by many and long dreaded by a few comes Wednesday in Manhattan and some of the other area public school districts; most students in districts that don’t start the 2013-14 school year on Wednesday will be in class on Thursday.

Some of the students are old hands and know, or think they know, the ropes. Others, newcomers to area schools or first-graders, are less likely to know what to expect. Many high school students will drive or ride to school with friends. Younger students who don’t ride a bus or are taken by a parent will either ride a bike or walk.

Let’s make sure they all get to school safely this week and every day of the 36 or so weeks between now and the end of the school year.

It sounds simple enough. All motorists have to do is obey the traffic laws, including that pesky ordinance pertaining to any and all cell phone use. But it gets a little tricky this time of year because we have to adjust to slower speeds in school zones and be aware of kids on sidewalks. And we’ll have to pay more attention when we’re behind buses, especially in the afternoons when they’re dropping students off. When the bus lights flash and its stop sign comes out, stop because it will make kids a little safer and because it’s the law.

We’ll also have to be particularly alert, and perhaps patient, just outside school zones and in neighborhoods in the mornings and afternoons. Kids don’t always do what they’re taught; they don’t always use crosswalks or look both ways before crossing the street. Elementary school children are easily distracted;  maybe they’re yelling to friends across the street or adjusting their backpacks while riding their bikes or simply daydreaming. And a lot of students, more likely in middle school or high school, might well be texting or plugged into some tunes and oblivious to the world — the hazards — around them.

They might be the last ones to admit it, but these students need us to be responsible adults and help make sure they get to school and get home safely. It isn’t much to ask.

We wish all area students a safe, happy and productive school year, one filled with enough opportunities and challenges that when May comes around, they’ll wonder where the time went.

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