Watch for children

The nights are getting cooler; it’s almost time to start closing the windows at night again. Moms and dads are coming home with shiny new calculators and clothes that include a little room to grow. Children know what that means: School will be back in session on Aug. 30. Across the Truckee Meadows, students are trying to grasp those last elusive moments of freedom before the school bells ring, and squirt guns must be exchanged for notebooks.

Beginning Monday, the majority of Washoe County schools will be back in session. That means the 15 mph school zone laws are back in force.

According to the American Automobile Association, children ages 5 to 15 make up 29 percent of the people killed or injured in pedestrian traffic collisions—yet are only 15 percent of the population. Those are scary statistics.

Drivers, even those without children, must make adjustments as well.

Drivers have probably lost the habit of slowing down for the flashing lights, but during the first two weeks of school, vigilance is especially necessary. Children, particularly the younger ones, have to relearn habits of looking both ways before crossing the street, judging the speed of oncoming vehicles and using crosswalks. The possibility of death is remote from their minds as they think about everything from Yu-Gi-Oh! to whether their backpack is the right color—everything, that is, except the task at hand.

The penalties are severe for speeding through school zones. According to the Reno Municipal Court, it’s a minimum of a $220 fine and four points on your driving record.

But school zones are just the highest traffic area. In almost any area of town, children must catch a school bus. In Nevada, it is illegal to pass a school bus with flashing lights. Penalties for that, too, are tough. Passing a school bus with flashing lights is also a $220 fine and four points on your driving record.

It is incumbent, as well, upon parents to teach children traffic safety. AAA suggests these points for helping children learn traffic safety:

• Find the safest route to school or the bus stop and walk the route with your children.

• Show children how to use crosswalks.

• Teach children the meaning of traffic signals and signs along the route.

• Remind children to be on the lookout for cars backing out of driveways.

• Help children understand the importance of cooperating with the police, school safety patrols and adult crossing guards.

• Teach children to stop, listen and look for approaching and turning vehicles, especially those turning right on a red light.

• Stress the importance of allowing enough time to cross the street and making sure children understand they must walk across streets as they continue to watch for vehicles.

• Introduce the concept of looking left-right-left before crossing streets.

• Always set a good example of safe pedestrian conduct for your children.