On the lookout for kids

Most schools are back in session across Eastern Ohio, and those that haven’t yet started classes for the 2017-18 academic year soon will.

That means elementary, middle and high school students will be walking to and from classes and bus stops each weekday morning and returning home from them every afternoon. It is imperative that motorists remember that it is their responsibility to help keep those children safe.

Large, bright yellow school buses are usually easy to see, whether they are traveling along local streets and highways or stopped to load or unload students. Still, some drivers fail to stop when those buses activate their signals, even though the law says they must.

While it can be difficult to prosecute drivers for failing to stop as a school bus is loading or unloading, technology is making it easier to prove that such violations have been committed. Cameras aboard buses, for example, often are capable of capturing images of offending vehicles and of the individuals driving them.

Anytime a school district or law enforcement officer can obtain proof of such a violation, the offender should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Such action might help deter drivers’ dangerous behavior.

But not all students are aboard those big, yellow buses when they encounter oncoming traffic. Individual children, and even groups of students walking together, can be much harder for drivers to spot. That is especially true early in the morning and in the evening hours, when twilight conditions can prevail.

That is why it is so important for drivers to remember that students are out there. During the first few days of school, the kids will be excited to see their old friends again. They may be distracted by the straps on new backpacks or by a schoolmate’s new outfit or by something on their cell phone.

Therefore, drivers cannot expect children to be on the lookout for oncoming vehicles at all times. Chances are good that students will make mistakes and step into the path of traffic. So, as motorists, we all must be on constant alert and always do our best to ensure those children get to and from school safely every day.