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Pioneer Editorial: Let's make 2010 a safe school year

It's after Labor Day and there's a definite chill in the air of the coming fall. It's also time for school to start again in many northern Minnesota schools, and a time to switch to our fall driving skills.

That means it's a little darker in the mornings and we must take care to watch for children queuing up for the bus stop or walking along the roadside to the bus stop or to school.

There will be more traffic on the roads, especially near schools, and both vehicle traffic and foot traffic. Special caution should be made in those zones.

Parents with children who must walk a distance to school early in the dark morning should provide their children with reflective clothing or reflective strips on their backpacks to make driver visibility easier.

And for those children who take the school bus, there are special rules there also. Of special concern is the "danger zone," or that area around a bus where most injuries and deaths occur. More children are killed outside of a school bus than are bus occupants. Parents should also discuss and demonstrate pedestrian safety with their children and reinforce safe crossing after exiting a bus.

According to the state Department of Public Safety, pedestrians should:

E Cross only at intersections or crosswalks.

E Obey all traffic signs and signals.

E Do not enter a crosswalk if a vehicle is too close or moving too fast to stop safely.

E Remember, the law requires pedestrians to take responsibility for their own safety.

And for drivers:

E Motorists must stop at least 20 feet from a school bus that is displaying red flashing lights and/or its stop arm is extended when approaching from the rear and from the opposite direction on undivided roads.

E Red flashing lights on buses indicates students are either entering or exiting the bus.

E Motorists are not required to stop for a bus if the bus is on the opposite side of a separated roadway (median, etc.) -- but they should remain alert for children.

E Altering a route or schedule to avoid a bus is one way motorists can help improve safety. In doing so, motorists won't find themselves behind a bus and as a result, potentially putting children at risk.

E Watch for school crossing patrols and pedestrians. Reduce speeds in and around school zones.

E Watch for pedestrian traffic and prepare to stop if a pedestrian is approaching the intersection.

E Stop for pedestrians -- the law applies to all street corners, for both marked and unmarked crosswalks (all street corners) -- every corner is a crosswalk.

Let's hope that this will be a safe school year, right from the start.