TIME TO STUDY UP!

MDOT SHA Logo

(MDOT SHA photo: MDOT SHA Logo)

(August 20, 2013) – Households across the State are making the transition from summer vacations to the back-to-school daily grind.  As parents prepare children with school supplies, fall clothing, and study skills, they need to add one more thing to the back to school checklist: reviewing the rules of the road. On average more than 500 children are involved in motor vehicle crashes each year in Maryland. Tragedies occur when drivers and pedestrians don’t know or follow the rules of the road.  We can help save lives and make sure each child returns home safely by reviewing the “rules of the road.”
 
Leaders from the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA), AAA Mid-Atlantic, Baltimore Metropolitan Council (BMC), Baltimore County Police and Public Schools today gathered together with students at Randallstown Elementary School to help remind drivers and pedestrians of roadway basics.  Whether a parent of a school-aged child or a daily commuter, each person has a role in back to school and pedestrian safety.  The children and safety partners unveiled a new education campaign featuring a crab mascot who will share the “do’s” and “don’ts” to keep everyone safe. The crab, a Maryland icon introduced as part of the successful Ocean City Walk Smart! Campaign, will serve as the symbol for SHA’s and BMC’s new “Back to School” themed pedestrian education effort that will combine grassroots and mass marketing efforts. 
 
“We want Maryland children to be safe when traveling to and from school. There is simply no contest between a car and a vehicle,” said The Honorable Adrienne Jones.  “We all share the responsibility of getting children to school safely.  Now is the time to take a refresher course in the rules of the road.  There’s no room for aggressive driving when sharing the road with school buses and children walking and biking to school. Be patient and conservative.”
 
Through the three “E’s” of safety – engineering, education and enforcement partners are working together to ensure that children stay safe this school year.  SHA engineers evaluated school zones along State routes throughout the summer, making adjustments and adding traffic devices such as crosswalks, signing and flashing lights where needed. 
 
“We cannot always be there to hold our children’s hands, but we can protect them by arming them with the information they need to navigate roads safely,” said SHA Administrator Melinda B. Peters. “Everyone needs to help spread the word that safety starts by walking smart and staying alert as well as sticking to the basics such as using crosswalks and looking left, right and left again.” 
 
“At some point in the day everybody is a pedestrian, whether it’s walking to school or from the car to the office,” said Larry Klimovitz, executive director of the Baltimore Metropolitan Council. “There needs to be an expectation of safety when we travel. Not just on highways, but the second we step outside, whether it’s our front door or our car door.” 
 
Pedestrians and drivers must both do their part to prevent crashes.  The Baltimore Metropolitan Council is the organization of the region’s elected officials who are committed to identifying regional interests and developing collaborative strategies, plans and programs with the goal of improving the quality of life and economic vitality throughout the region.
 
Motorists should be aware that enforcement is another key component of education efforts, and local police departments will be in full force in designated school zones where speed limits may be reduced. 
 
“We are committed to making our roadways safe for both pedestrians and motorists. It is our goal to achieve this through education campaigns like Street Smart, through enforcement efforts, and by working with traffic engineers to improve overall roadway designs.  Together we’re making roads safer, which is critical everyday but especially as traffic patterns change with the start of the school year,” said Chief James W. Johnson, Baltimore County Police Department.
 
“As students across Maryland begin to head back to school as early as this week, we are urging motorists to be alert and exercise caution in and around residential areas and school zones particularly before and after school hours,” said Ragina C. Averella, Manager of Public and Government Affairs at AAA Mid-Atlantic.  “As children gather at neighborhood bus stops, walk or bike to and from school, it’s imperative that motorists slow down and observe the lower speed limits while driving through these areas.”

WHAT TO DO WHEN APPROACHING A SCHOOL BUS
• When a school bus stops, the flashing red lights go on and the stop sign flaps come out, drivers in BOTH directions need to stop. This is the most dangerous time as children getting on or off a bus can dart anywhere. 
• Drivers must be patient.  There is simply no room for aggressive driving around a school bus.
• It is against the law to pass a stopped school bus with its flashing red lights activated and stop arm extended.

DRIVERS NEED TO REMEMBER
• Realize that your commute takes longer when school is in session – allow more time.
 
• Don’t put yourself in a position where you have to rush.  When drivers rush, we are more likely to make bad decisions.
 
• Understand that traffic fines can be doubled in school zones – worst case scenario a ticket could cost you nearly $1,000.
 
• Stay alert.  Avoid distractions – especially mobile devices. 
 
• Watch for children walking in the street, especially if there are
no sidewalks in the neighborhood.
 
• And remember, Maryland law requires motorists to stop for pedestrians in all crosswalks.
 
WHAT PARENTS AND KIDS NEED TO KNOW
• Children and their parents need to review the rules of the road too – everyday.
 
• If traveling by school bus: have a safe place to wait for the bus, AWAY from traffic  and the street, and stay away from the bus until it comes to a complete stop and the driver signals you to enter.
 
• When walking: only cross the street at a marked crosswalk, preferably one that has a crossing guard.  Before crossing a street, look left, then right, then left again.  Stay alert.  Follow signals.
 
• When riding a bike, don’t ever ride your bike across an intersection.  Get off and walk it across after looking both ways for oncoming traffic or waiting for a crossing signal.
 
“We're focused on making sure our children arrive at school safely whether they are walking, traveling by school bus or by car. Because smaller children have not yet developed the cognitive ability to judge distance and speed, we're asking that drivers be alert and extra vigilant in their morning and afternoon commutes,” said Executive Director Dale R. Rauenzahn, School Safety and Security Baltimore County Public Schools.
 
Listed below are the start dates for each county’s public school system:
 
Garrett County- August 26th
Allegany County-August 26th
Washington County-August 21st
Frederick County- August 19th
Carroll County-August 26th
Howard County- August 27th
Montgomery County-August 19th
Prince George’s County- August 19th
Charles County- August 26th
St. Mary’s County-August 21st
Calvert County-August 20th
Anne Arundel County-August 27th
Baltimore County-August 26th
Harford County-August 26th
Caroline County-August 26th
Cecil County-August 22nd
Kent County-September 3rd
Queen Anne’s County-August 26th
Talbot County-August 27th
Dorchester County-August 19th
Somerset County-August 26th
Wicomico County-August 27th
Worcester County-August 26th
 
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