As Scotland County’s public schools will be back in session on Tuesday, local drivers should prepare once again to encounter school buses during morning commutes.
According to the state Highway Patrol, maintaining safe streets and highways for school buses and students requires a joint effort from parents, schools, and law enforcement, as well as the community at large. During the first weeks of school, those driving through school zones and parents driving their children to school should pay particular attention to traffic patterns, said Highway Patrol 1st Sgt. Travis Harper.
“Parents need to be patient with other people until they learn these patterns,” Harper said. “They may need to leave a couple of minutes early, especially the first week because it’s going to be kind of hectic, especially with new parents coming in who haven’t been to those schools before.”
Harper said that traffic at South Scotland Elementary School causes the greatest traffic issue in the county, as cars back up to the intersection of U.S. 501 and Barnes Bridge Road.
In the event of a stopped school bus on a two-lane street, all traffic should stop rather than passing the bus. Harper said that drivers passing stopped school buses has proven to be a significant issue in rural counties, and that failure to stop for a school bus carries a mandatory court appearance.
When a bus has stopped on a four-lane highways and there is a median between traffic travelling in opposite directions, only vehicles travelling in the same direction as the bus need stop.
Harper added that speeding in school zones carries a $250 fine with a possible $190 in court costs.
As students drive to school, 1st Sgt. Andreas Dietrich said that parents should be sure that their children are driving responsibly. During the last school year, 9.4 percent of collisions in Scotland County that caused injuries involved drivers aged 15-19.
“We would like to see the parents be involved and teach their kids safe driving habits,” said Dietrich. “Kids learn from their parents, so we would hope that we’re not the only deterrent to dangerous driving.”
Continuing a program begun in March, the Highway Patrol will conduct regular school safety checks at all schools in the county this year. Each trooper will be assigned a school to visit.
“They will actually go to the school and talk to administrators, the staff, and possibly even students at times to make sure there’s a visible presence,” Harper said. “We’re trying to deter any incidents that may occur based on some of the stuff we’ve seen in the national news.”
In the last quarter of the 2012-2013 school year, the Highway Patrol conducted 28 safety checks in Scotland County schools.
“We don’t want people to pull up and see the Highway Patrol car there and automatically think something bad is going on,” said Dietrich.
Students or parents who notice suspicious persons or vehicles on school property should notify school staff or law enforcement.
“Everybody can become involved with school safety,” Dietrich said. “If you see a suspicious person or a suspicious vehicle, report that to the administrative staff at the school or a law enforcement officer. Don’t investigate it yourself.”