Get Healthy Carson City: Make school zone safety a priority

This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.

The first day of school in neighboring Lyon and Douglas counties took place on Monday, and here in Carson City, there are just a few days until our students will be back in class as well. Many students in our region make the daily school commute on foot or by bicycle, and the Western Nevada Safe Routes to School program wants to remind motorists in our region to be alert for kids traveling to and from school.

The areas around schools can become quite congested with traffic at the beginning of the school day and again at dismissal time. Parents are often in a hurry to drop off or pick up their children, and kids can get excited and forget about traffic safety. By taking a minute to slow down, everyone can help with school travel safety.

Western Nevada Safe Routes to School promotes walking and bicycling to school, but realizes for some families, especially those who live too far from the school, this is not possible. If you’re driving around a school, there are some important traffic laws to be aware of. First, no U-turns are allowed in active school zones or in school crossing zones. No passing is allowed in active school zones. If the school zone flashers are on, it’s an active school zone. Be sure to always observe posted speed limits. Don’t park your vehicle within 20 feet of a marked crosswalk, as this limits visibility to other drivers as well as pedestrians. Finally, handheld devices, like cell phones, are always illegal while operating a motor vehicle, so put them away unless you’re parked.

Although the following aren’t laws, they’re important tips to keep kids safe.

Parents, please don’t encourage your kids to run across the street to get to and from your car. If possible, try to drop them off on the curb, on the same side of the street as the school so they don’t have to cross the street in heavy traffic. Encourage kids to use the crosswalks when they need to get across the road. Set a good example by using the crosswalks yourself. A child darting between vehicles to cross the street is dangerous because it’s often difficult for children to be seen until they’re in the street. Crossing at a marked crosswalk improves visibility, and drivers are more likely to be looking for young pedestrians at the crosswalks.

Help teach your youngster to be a safe pedestrian by reinforcing these important points:

If possible, choose areas with sidewalks or a wide shoulder to give yourself space away from traffic. Walk on the left side of the street facing traffic if there’s no sidewalk.

ALWAYS look both ways for traffic before crossing a street. Before stepping in front of a vehicle, make sure the driver sees you, plans on stopping and has time to stop.

Pay attention to your surroundings. Remove headphones and put away your phone.

Let’s all work together to improve the safety of Carson City’s streets and make sure we all arrive alive.

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