Laura Williams, VCSO Office of Public Affairs & Media Relations
Robert S. Edgcomb, Volusia County Schools, email@example.com
MAKE SAFETY A PRIORITY AS SCHOOL STARTS MONDAY IN VOLUSIA COUNTY
Teachers at schools across Volusia County are preparing for the big day and students won’t be far behind them. With the first day of classes approaching fast (school starts Monday, Aug. 13), the Volusia County School District and the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office are working to make this year a safe one for everyone.
It starts on the roads. With more kids on the roads and sidewalks all over Volusia County, drivers must get back in the habit of slowing down and paying close attention to their surroundings. No texting and driving. No distracted driving, period. The same advice goes for students: If you’re distracted by your phone and you walk in front of a moving vehicle, the vehicle may not have time to stop. You could be injured or killed.
“Don’t think it can’t happen to you,” Sheriff Mike Chitwood said. “You have to slow down and pay attention, no matter what. The moment you look down at your phone might be the moment an innocent child steps into the road. Don’t make a mistake you have to live with for the rest of your life.”
The sheriff is putting deputies out in force in school zones across Volusia County to enforce traffic laws and ensure students’ safety. There are more than 70 public schools in Volusia County where drivers should be prepared to slow down at school zones and keep an eye out for unpredictable children. Remember: When children or crossing guards are in a crosswalk, drivers must stop at the marked stop line. If you’re not picking up or dropping off a child at school, avoid school zones if possible.
In addition, this year a new state law requires armed security on every school campus. When school starts Monday in Volusia County, every school will have an armed guardian, deputy or municipal police officer on campus. Thirty-five school guardians, who are employees of Volusia County Schools and not sworn law enforcement officers, have been trained by the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office (VCSO). There is a need for a total of 50 school guardians. While more guardians are being trained, VCSO will provide deputies and higher-ranking members of the Sheriff’s Office to fill in temporarily at several elementary schools. In addition to the school guardians, 17 school resource deputies and 17 police officers are serving Volusia’s schools, including alternative sites and charter schools.
Throughout the school year, deputies will once again increase traffic enforcement to reduce speeding, prevent crosswalk violations and stop drivers from passing stopped school buses. It's illegal to pass a bus on an undivided roadway if the vehicle is stopped to load or unload children. If the highway is divided by a raised barrier or an unpaved median at least five feet wide, you don’t have to stop if you are moving in the opposite direction of the bus.
The Sheriff’s Office urges parents to take time before Monday to talk to children about the importance of safety, and to familiarize them with the safest route to school – whether that involves a bus stop, a bicycle or a walk.
“It’s as important as ever for students and drivers to be aware of each other throughout our community,” Volusia County School Superintendent Tom Russell said. “Students may assume a driver sees them, but if the driver is distracted or the student darts out in front of the vehicle, the result can be tragic. Please be alert and aware of students traveling to and from school and exercise caution in school zones.”
Once again, everyone is reminded to please put away phones, iPods, gaming devices and other electronics while on the move. Please don’t text and drive – and if you’re a pedestrian or bicyclist, please don’t text and travel! These technologies have introduced an added layer of distraction that can put you in harm’s way in an instant. It’s not worth the risk.
Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, and nearly one in four fatal crashes involving teen drivers occurs during the after-school hours of 3 to 7 p.m.
The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office offers a Teen Driving Challenge that trains teenage drivers to avoid deadly traffic crashes. For more information about this eight-hour course, visit volusiasheriff.org.
HERE ARE MORE ANNUAL SAFETY TIPS TO REMEMBER AS SCHOOL STARTS:
If you drive your children to school:
--Be sure to use the appropriate parent drop-off/pick-up area. Once at the school, please follow the instructions of the school’s staff.
--Drive defensively. Always anticipate the possibility that a child may dart in front of your vehicle. Be prepared to stop at all times.
--During the first couple of weeks, expect traffic patterns around and near schools to be very congested. Leave a few minutes early and plan for extra drive time to get to your destination.
--Slow down and watch out for school zones and children walking or biking to school or congregating near bus stops. Also, be alert for student drivers.
--Obey all posted speed limits.
--Be especially careful in areas with parked vehicles on the side of the road. Children crossing between vehicles may be difficult for you to see.
--Remember that buses will be making frequent stops. It’s not only dangerous to students, but it’s against the law to pass a school bus while it’s stopped on the roadway picking up or dropping off students. And this applies to traffic going in both directions -- unless the road is divided by a raised barrier or an unpaved median at least five feet wide.
--When turning at an intersection, be sure to yield to pedestrians and cyclists.
If your child is walking to school or a bus stop, plan a safe route and make sure your child knows the route and can navigate it safely. Choose the most direct route with the fewest street crossings. If a school crossing guard is available, be sure that your child crosses at that location. If your child is young or is walking to a new school, walk the route with them beforehand and continue to walk with them for the first week until they’re comfortable with the route.
If you’re a student riding the bus:
--Stay out of the street while waiting for the bus.
--Wait for the bus to come to a complete stop and the doors open before approaching the bus from the curb.
--Stay in clear view of the bus driver. Never walk behind the bus.
--Look both ways before crossing the street to get on the bus.
--After getting off the bus, look both ways and then move immediately onto the sidewalk and out of traffic.
If you’re a student walking or biking to school:
--For bike riders, wear a properly-fitted helmet at all times. Research shows this simple act can reduce the risk of head injury by up to 85 percent. Also, riders should use a bike that’s the right size for them and make sure they don’t have any loose clothing, drawstrings or shoelaces that can cause an accident.
--Bike riders should ride on the right, in the same direction as traffic, and use appropriate hand signals. Bicyclists also should respect traffic lights and stop signs.
--Walk or bike with a friend. It’s safer that way.
--Walk on sidewalks where available.
--Always cross streets at intersections.
--Bicyclists and walkers should wear bright clothing to make them more visible to drivers.
--To avoid distractions, bikers and walkers shouldn’t use a cell phone or headphones. Absolutely no texting!