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The Blotter
With Corporal Melinda Wray, NPD

It’s that time of year again. Backpacks line the front doors, filled with new binders, pens, and sharpened pencils. Parents and children alike eagerly wait for the first bell to sound, signaling the start of another school year.

It’s these traditional beginnings that bring many new memories, but can also be hazardous to commuters and school children if simple safety tips are not practiced.

Norfolk Police Chief Michael Goldsmith would like to remind drivers and pedestrians to be extra careful when Norfolk Public Schools resume classes on September 8, 2015. “The new school year can be a stressful and exciting time for everyone, but commuting safely should be at the forefront of our minds,” advises Chief Michael Goldsmith. “I encourage our motorists to remain cognizant of their surroundings and stay alert in and around our school zones and bus stops.”

When a new school year begins, expect increased congestion throughout the weekdays and plan ahead to accommodate the traditionally heavy traffic periods. Motorists should build time into their schedule as bus stops and school zones lengthen time spent behind the wheel. Planning ahead for the school-time commute will undoubtedly save precious minutes, lower frustration levels, and increase alertness to improve the safety of yourself and loved ones.

The Norfolk Police Department, along with their partners in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), also remind travelers that fewer hours of daylight make it harder for motorists to see pedestrians and children. Nationally, more schoolaged pedestrians are killed between the hours of 7:00 a.m. - 8:00 a.m. and between 3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. than any other times of the day (NHTSA Statistics, 2002-2011).

Other Back-to-school Safety Tips From the NHTSA Include the Following:

School Bus: School buses are the safest mode of transportation for getting children back and forth to school. Even so, kids need to be especially careful around the school bus “danger zone” - 10 feet in front, 10 feet behind, and on each side of the bus. Kids should:

• Wait five giant steps from the road and when the school bus arrives, wait until the driver says to board.

• When exiting the bus, look out for cars. When off the bus, take 5 giant steps from the school bus.

• Look left-right-left to make sure no cars are coming and wait for the driver to signal it’s safe to cross.

Walking: Pedestrians 10-years-old and younger should be accompanied by an adult or young adult on their way to and from school. Kids should:

• Walk on the sidewalk, and if there is none, walk facing traffic.

• When crossing the street, look left-right-left for cars. Do not cross if a car is coming and use a crosswalk if available.

Biking: The two best protections when biking to and from school are a properly fitted bicycle helmet and a good grasp of traffic safety rules. Kids should:

• Always wear a helmet and make sure to buckle the chin strap.

• Always ride in the same direction as traffic, and stop at all stop signs and signals.

• Never use headphones or cell phones while riding.

Car: Children should always ride in the back seat. Children in the front seat are 40 percent more likely to be injured in crashes.

As always, traffic and school zone safety is a high priority for the Norfolk Police Department. To learn more about traffic safety issues, please contact the Crime Prevention Unit at 757-664-6901.

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