Back to school safety alert

School is back in session this week for almost everyone in Oregon, from kindergartners to high school seniors.


Oregon Department of Transportation

That means it’s a good time to remind students, parents and motorists the importance of being vigilant. Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), AAA, law enforcement and safety advocates around the state are urging extra caution, as there will be more people on roads, on sidewalks, getting on/off buses and in bike lanes, especially during the morning commute and after school.

On average in Oregon, there are 240 crashes a year in school zones, and any of those could be tragic. Over the past five years, six people have lost their lives in crashes that occurred in Oregon’s school zones. Officials say many crashes that occur in school zones aren’t reported as being there, so the numbers may be even higher.

Here are some tips for safety as people young and old adjust to their back-to-school routines:

  • For motorists

Watch for children walking or riding bikes to school in the morning and from school in the afternoon. They may be inattentive and excited, or they may be learning a new route, so be prepared and on the lookout.

Remember speeds around school zones: 20 mph is the maximum in most cases.

Stop and stay stopped for people in crosswalks (and keep an eye out for those who mistakenly cross streets at other spots).

Be alert for school buses: when overhead lights flash yellow, prepare to stop. When they flash red, stop. Children may be crossing the street at the direction of the bus driver!

Obey school crossing guards, whose job it is to help students safely cross the street.

Avoid distractions. It is illegal to use a handheld mobile device while driving in Oregon!

Follow school parking lot circulation plans; these help provide safety for pedestrians and bicyclists.

  • For students and parents/guardians

Walking to school is safer when children:

Walk with an adult, responsible older sibling or in a group.

Walk on the sidewalk, if there is one, or walk facing traffic; be extra careful passing through work zones.

Walk focused and alert, not using electronic devices.

Cross in a crosswalk and/or with the assistance of a crossing guard.

Wear bright colors and reflective gear, especially as days get shorter.

Biking to and from school is safer when children and adults alike:

Wear a properly fitted helmet.

Wear bright colors and reflective gear, especially as days get shorter.

Follow rules of the road: ride in the same direction as traffic, stop at all stop signs and signals, etc.

Choose safe routes to schools, such as streets or trails with lower traffic volumes and speeds.

Ride focused and alert, not using electronic devices.

  • On the school bus

Riding a bus is safer when children stay three giant steps (six feet) away from the curb when waiting for the bus, and when the bus arrives, wait until the driver says to board.

When getting off the bus, cross in front at least five giant steps (10 feet) away and look left-right-left for traffic.

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