Some school districts have started class this week, others will soon follow. The State Highway Patrol wants drivers to be prepared for a change in traffic pattern.
Captain Tim Hull with the State Highway Patrol headquarters in Jefferson City wants drivers to be aware of increased traffic, especially school buses. Hull reminds us all to stop when the red-lights of the school bus are flashing and the stop sign extended.
"We still get a few complaints about people who violated the stop arm on a school bus," Hull says, but adds that, for the most part, drivers stop when school buses are loading and unloading. Missouri law requires drivers to stop on two-lane roads when meeting or following a school bus when the bus is stopped and displaying warning signals with its stop arm extended. The patrol asks drivers to be alert, because children often aren’t paying attention when getting off the bus and crossing the road.
Last year, one person died, 400 were injured in slightly more than one thousand school bus crashes. Hull says the patrol has observed that drivers in the two major cities, St. Louis and Kansas City, have a tendency to try to drive quickly by before the lights begin flashing.
School also brings out a lot of young, inexperienced drivers who will be on the highways driving to and from school.
"They have been driving all summer, but they’ve been driving to and from the swimming pool or maybe to and from a summer job or mowing grass or things like that. They’re not used to all that traffic going to one spot all at once," Hull says.
Mid-to-late afternoon can be dangerous. Most of the traffic crashes involving young drivers occur between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., the time that school typically lets out.
The patrol cautions about more than just cars and trucks on the road, there also will be bicycles, skateboards, scooters, walkers, etc.
"Returning to school is a milestone for our children," said Colonel James F. Keathley, superintendent of the Patrol said in a statement. "Let’s help them reach this milestone safely. It’s important that parents talk to their children about riding a bus or walking to school safely. If they ride a bike, please make sure they wear a helmet and follow traffic laws. Our children are our future. Let’s protect it."