It is a serious matter and certainly not one to be taken lightly.
It is especially pressing because it involves the lives of children — the children of our neighbor’s, our friend’s, our loved ones’ and our own.
No one wants to feel the remorse, the personal guilt nor the painful anguish of being responsible for injuries to innocent children ... or worse.
Certainly, accidents will happen. Some are unavoidable. But most are not.
Let us consider these driving tips in school zones or when anywhere near the close proximity of a school bus loaded with students:
1. Do not speed in school zones. The traditionally enforced speed is 15 or 20 mph and the fine for speeding in a school zone can be as high as $500.
2. Do not pass a school bus when it is stopped and loading or unloading passengers. This applies to motorists who are traveling in the same direction as the bus or those in opposite lanes coming from the other direction. Fines can range from $250 to $1,000.
3. Be mindful of traffic congestion in school zones, especially during morning and evening rush hours, and always be prepared to stop.
4. Do not allow passengers to disembark from your vehicle in school zones unless the areas are plainly marked for unloading.
5. Practice courteous driving at all times, follow precisely the instructions given by crossing guards and obey all traffic signals and other signage.
6. Watch for all forms of movement in school zones — by buses, bicycles, motorcycles, cars, pedestrians and uniformed officers, patrol guards or school resource officers.
7. Local school zones are monitored frequently by the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office, the Cleveland Police Department or the Tennessee Highway Patrol depending upon their location.
If motorists pay attention, follow the rules and extend common courtesies, school zones can be safe and unintimidating. If they do not, the following types of results can be expected:
1. In 2011, state troopers (THP) issued 3,856 citations in school zones. That’s an increase from 3,189 citations issued in 2010.
2. Since 2000, some 130 school-aged pedestrians in the U.S. (younger than 19) have died in school transportation-related crashes.
3. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, some 800 children are killed annually traveling to and from school.
Combined efforts by the THP, Cleveland police and Sheriff’s deputies, and their law enforcement colleagues from around the country, have succeeded since 2006 in reducing the number of traffic crashes in school zones by 22 percent. Likewise, crashes involving school buses have dropped by almost 13 percent.
The reasoning is simple. Motorists are taking their responsibility to safety seriously, yet these annual reminders are always relevant.
And in the sobering words of one THP officer, “There is no punishment more severe than the lifelong guilt and remorse for injuring or possibly killing a child.”
It’s that serious.
It’s why we repeat this warning.
Drive safely, Cleveland and Bradley County. And remember the children. They could be your own.