Next Monday, Aug. 24, marks the first day of the 2015-16 school year for students of Iowa City public schools, Regina Catholic Education Center, and Willowwind School. That means that drivers will need to focus even more attention on the road to protect the safety and well-being of children on their way to and from school and school-related activities.
Iowa City Police Officer R.A. Mebus of the Crime Prevention Office reminds drivers to:
- Be on the watch for students and crossing guards who will be crossing the streets before and after school. Some children will be on bikes, so drivers should keep an eye out for bicycles, too. Give children the right-of-way in crosswalks and school zones.
- Also be on the lookout for new teen drivers who may not have much experience behind the wheel in high-traffic situations.
- Know when to stop your vehicle for a school bus. When a school bus is stopped, its amber or red lights are flashing, and the stop sign arm is extended from the side of the bus, you need to stop. Do not pass the bus from either direction. When meeting a school bus that is flashing amber lights, drivers may proceed (no faster than 20 miles per hour), but must come to a complete stop when the bus stops and extends its stop signal arm.
- Watch your driving speed. The speed limit in school zones is 20 miles per hour. These are in effect Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Additional safety tips for parents to teach or review with their children:
- Parents and children should walk or bike the route together before the start of school to look for any possible hazards, and identify a safe place to go if the child needs help.
- Review street safety tips: Stop, look and listen before crossing the street. Never run out into the street or cross between parked cars. Always cross at the crosswalk and obey traffic signals.
- Stay on the sidewalk or bike path and do not take short cuts.
- Remind your child that if someone approaches them or makes them feel uncomfortable, they should not talk to them. Keep walking or riding.
- If students will be at home alone after school, review home safety rules and who to contact in an emergency. Fire Marshal Brian Greer of the Iowa City Fire Department also encourages parents to go over fire safety procedures and emergency exit plans with their family this time of year.
Safety rules for children who will be riding a bike to school:
- Always wear a properly fitting helmet, and make sure bike equipment is working properly.
- Need a helmet? The Iowa City Recreation Division, in cooperation with SAFE KIDS Johnson County and Bell Sports, offers bike and all-sport helmets for children and adults for $12. Purchase the helmets during office hours at either recreation center: Robert A. Lee at 220 S. Gilbert Street, or Mercer / Scanlon at 2701 Bradford Drive.
- Follow bicycling rules: Ride on the right in the same direction as traffic, use hand signals when turning or stopping, and respect traffic lights and stop signs. For other bicycling rules, see “Kids and Bicycle Safety” from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website at www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/pedbimot/bike/kidsandbikesafetyweb/.
- Wear bright-colored clothing to make you more visible to drivers.
Safety tips for children who will be riding the bus:
- Get to the bus stop at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive.
- Know your bus number.
- Do not play in the street while waiting for the bus to arrive.
- If someone offers you a ride, say "NO."
- When the bus approaches, stand at least six feet (three giant steps) away from the curb, and line up away from the street.
- Wait until the bus stops, the door opens, and the bus driver says that it's OK before stepping onto the bus.
- If you have to cross the street in front of the bus, walk on the sidewalk or along the side of the road until you are at least 10 feet (five giant steps) ahead of the bus before you cross. Be sure that the bus driver can see you, and that you can see the bus driver.
- If you drop something near the bus, tell the bus driver. Never try to pick something up before telling the driver, because he or she may not be able to see you. Similarly, if you forget something on the bus, don’t try to get back on until you get an OK from the driver to board.
Have a great -- and safe! -- school year!
For more information, contact Police Sgt. Scott Gaarde at 319-356-5293, Officer R.A. Mebus at the Crime Prevention Office at 319-356-5273, or Fire Marshal Brian Greer at 319-356-5257.