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Behind the Badge How to stay safe when heading back to school

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Eric Versteeg

Posted: Monday, August 8, 2011 12:00 am | Updated: 9:27 am, Mon Aug 8, 2011.

School is back in session. The streets are a little busier as parents try to get Junior off to school on time.

I realize that those who read this article are probably safety-conscious and strive to obey the law. I applaud your efforts, and hope to provide a refresher to keep you and our students safe.

Here is a list of some of the most common violations we in law enforcement see this time of year:

  • Speed limit: The speed limit around schools is 25 mph when children are present. This refers to the children outside of the fenced areas, typically just before and after school. You are expected to be traveling at this speed when you enter the school zone. The lower speed limit ends when you pass the school.

If you drive a regular route in the morning or afternoon, familiarize yourself with the school locations and schedules. If you think the speed limit is a little low, rest assured, the fine is a little high for speeding in a school zone.

  • Parking: Crosswalks, red zones, school bus parking and fire hydrants are not reserved drop-off areas just for you. There is no stopping, standing or parking in front of these areas. That means if you are sitting in the car while your child gets out, you are still in violation.

Consider a pre-designated pickup or drop off point for your student to avoid the congestion around the schools.

Do not stop in the street, no matter how quickly you push your child out of the door. This blocks traffic and creates problems for others. It can be dangerous as well, as your child is darting through parked vehicles that may be trying to make a hasty exit.

Be aware, many of the school parking lots have signs to direct traffic to make a right turn only during a certain time frame. The purpose of this is to keep traffic flowing. You can be cited for failing to obey these signs. At the very least, you will become the object of ire for other drivers.

  • Pedestrians: Remind your student to utilize crosswalks, especially those monitored by crossing guards. Your child may have to walk a little further, but they will be safer. I have also noticed that collisions with pedestrians are often the pedestrian's fault. Foot traffic around schools, especially along Ham Lane and the high schools, can be heavy, so put down your cellphone and drive slowly (see "Speed limit").
  • Crossing guards: Crossing guards wearing reflective safety vests are legally allowed to stop traffic to allow children to safely cross the street. Crossing guards are frequently ignored or verbally abused, and deserve more recognition. Some of the intersections they work are very busy, so please let them do their job.
  • Bicycles: Sometimes I feel like I am beating a dead horse in regards to bicycle safety, but I continue to see young teenagers struck by vehicles because they are not riding appropriately. Explain to your child why they need to ride on the right side of the road.

Also, helmets equal safety if they are properly strapped to your child's head instead hanging from their handlebars. For those under 18 years of age who ride bicycles, skateboards or rollerblades, helmets are required. I have spoken with quite a few teenagers, and found that the primary excuse for not wearing a helmet is that it is not cool.

In sum, please be extra cautious around the schools. I know from experience it can be difficult and frustrating to see lazy and dangerous drivers failing to obey the law. My only request is that instead of being a part of the problem, become a part of the solution.

Any comments, questions or advice for Behind the Badge can be e-mailed to Jeanie Biskup at jbiskup@pd.lodi.gov; mailed to Lodi Police Department, 215 W. Elm St., Lodi, CA 95240; or asked by phone at 333-6864.

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