GUEST COLUMN: Drivers, slow down for our children’s sake

By SCOTT RUDD, guest columnist

Once again, it’s that time of year when we start to see children standing by the roadside waiting for their buses to pick them up for school.

Some children will be walking to and from school.

Also, many more student drivers — not as experienced as older adult drivers — will be traveling on the roads every day in the morning and afternoon.

These circumstances significantly increase the potential for accidents and harm to our children, as well as to other people.

Everyone needs to be aware of these higher risks and be prepared to be more alert in their driving habits to protect children when they travel to and from their schools.

The town is focusing more on student and pedestrian safety, and the Nashville Town Council recently approved a new school zone to help increase student safety. The school zone will be placed on Main Street in Nashville in the area around the Brown County fire department and Brown County Career Resource Center.

Two crosswalks are also being planned, to extend across Main Street near the fire station and another extending across Van Buren from the Speedway gas station to the Subway building.

Please be aware of children crossing in these areas and note the reduced speeds and fines associated with school zones.

The National Safety Council, a nonprofit, nongovernmental public service organization promoting health and safety in the United States, has made several recommendations to help people understand how to share the road with young pedestrians and school buses. The Nashville Police Department strongly urges community members to learn and follow these recommendations every day.

The National Safety Council’s recommendations are:

  • Never pass a bus from behind — or from either direction if you’re on an undivided road — if it is stopped to load or unload children.
  • If the yellow or red lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended, traffic must stop.
  • The area 10 feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for children. Stop far enough back to allow them space to safely enter and exit the buses.
  • Be alert. Children often are unpredictable, and they tend to ignore hazards and take risks.
  • Don’t block the crosswalks when stopped at a red light or waiting to make a turn, forcing pedestrians to go around you. This could put them in the path of moving traffic.
  • In a school zone when flashers are blinking, stop and yield to pedestrians crossing the crosswalks or intersections.
  • Always stop for a school patrol officer or crossing guard holding up a stop sign.
  • Take extra care to look out for children in school zones, near playgrounds and parks and in all residential areas.

The National Safety Council’s research shows that children who lose their lives in bus-related incidents are typically 4 to 7 years old, and they’re walking to or from their schools. According to the National Safe Routes to School Program, more children are hit by cars near schools than at any other location.

This school year, as always, drivers are encouraged to follow all of the National Safety Council’s recommendations and to make the health and safety of our children a top priority. They deserve nothing less.

Scott Rudd is the Nashville town manager and economic development director.