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School starting means time for extra safety consideration

Where has the summer gone?

A clear sign that the season is almost over is when school starts.

In West Fargo that is next Tuesday (Aug. 31) already, right in advance of the Labor Day holiday.

With school starting, also comes the obvious increase in traffic in school zone areas and the need for awareness about safe driving practices.

Two especially high volume traffic areas both located on busy, busy roadways will once again be the Cheney Middle School on 17th Avenue East and the West Fargo High School on 9th Street East.

These are always two areas of major concern involving the element of speed and the safety of pedestrian traffic - those walking in the regular school designated crosswalks, as well as those excited students who may dart out between cars or may cross the street without looking. Remember that in the state of North Dakota, the pedestrian has the right-of-way at the crosswalk.

Some key tips for motorists at school sites include:

*Slow down in or near school or residential areas, and be sure to come to a complete stop at all intersections;

*Look for clues such as School Safety Patrol members, crossing guards, bicycles and playgrounds which indicate children could be in the area;

*Scan between parked cars and other objects for signs that children could dart into the road;

*Always stop for school buses that are loading and unloading students. It's the law.

*Leave a little early so you are not rushed as you travel to work or school.

*Drive with your headlights on - even during the day - so children and other drivers can see you.

On that same note, parents need to remind their children how to be safe pedestrians. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children younger than ten always walk with adults. The North Dakota Department of Health recommends that parents walk to school with their children and teach them about pedestrian safety along the way so that when children are old enough to travel alone, they can stay safe and enjoy their walks to and from school.

The North Dakota Department of Health encourages parents to share these safe walking tips with their children and to practice them as they walk to school together:

*always walk - don't run - across the street; don't walk suddenly into the path of a vehicle;

*stop completely at all street corners;

*obey all the pedestrian signals;

*never dart out into the street between parked cars;

*cross streets only at intersections and crosswalks;

*look left, then right, and left again before crossing;

*continue looking both ways as you cross the street;

*walk alertly - use your eyes and ears to increase your safety;

*walk facing the flow of traffic on sidewalks and paths;

*at signals, begin walking when the "walk" signal is showing. Finish crossing even when the signal flashes "don't walk." The flashing "don't walk" signal means don't step off the curb and begin crossing.

A little bit of extra caution on both the part of the driver and the pedestrian will go a long way in ensuring that no one is injured due to unnecessary carelessness.