Editorial: School starts back soon, so it’s time to be even more cautious behind the wheel

Aug. 06, 2013 @ 11:03 PM

School resumes in Sevier County a week from Friday, but it’s not too early for drivers to begin to adjust their habits to be aware that more children will be present in areas they have been scarce for the past two or three months.

Highway Patrol Col. Tracy Trott is reminding motorists to exercise caution in neighborhoods and around school zones during the upcoming  school year. State troopers will target speeders, distracted drivers and those who disregard stopped school buses that are loading and unloading children. Put away those cell phones until you get to your destination.

State troopers issued 5,247 citations in school zones during the 2012-2013 school year. That’s up from 3,856 citations issued in 2011-12.

Last year’s citations included 759 speeding violations and two for passing a stopped school bus. You would think drivers, even the youngest among them, would know not to pass a school bus in either direction that has stopped to load or unload kids. 

“Our priority is to educate motorists on the importance of safe driving practices around school zones and buses and in high pedestrian traffic areas,” Trott said. “We are also urging motorists who are transporting children to and from school to ensure they are safely restrained in seat belts, booster seats and child restraint devices. This effort stretches far beyond school zones,” he added.

Between 2008 and 2012, there has been a 7 percent decrease in the number of crashes occurring in school zones from 6-9 a.m. and 2-5 p.m.

There was also a 73 percent decline in the total number of school bus-related crashes between those same hours. That’s encouraging, But only when those numbers hit zero will it be caution enough.

Being in a hurry, running late and handing a phone call or text are no excuse for exercising safety when children are present. The consequences are too late to be a responsible driver.