NEWBERRY COUNTY — School is just around the corner for students, and the South Carolina Highway Patrol would like everyone to remember to be safe on the roadways.
“The main emphasis for us, we understand traffic is going to be picking up, we understand that school buses are going to be on our roads, around the 20th, everything is gearing up. We like to remind people of three things, school bus laws, pedestrian safety and speeding in school zones and traffic in school zones,” said Lance Corporal Justin Sutherland with the S.C. Highway Patrol.
When it comes to school bus laws, Sutherland says when you see a school bus, you know there are children on the bus, and you always want to keep that in mind. He says children may get excited and run into the road, so always use caution and be prepared for something to happen.
“If there are four lanes or more, and you are traveling in the opposite direction, you do not have to stop, you can continue to go. I always tell people to exercise caution and always make sure they realize what these school buses are doing,” Sutherland said. “If you are traveling the same direction, obviously you have to stop. Red lights on, stop sign out, you have to stop.”
The penalty for passing a stopped school bus with the red lights on and stop sign out is a $500 minimum fine, $1,062 maximum, and six points on your license for the first offense. The second offense is a $2,000 fine and six points on your license, minimum.
With the start of school comes more children walking to school. Sutherland asks that drivers be aware of students waiting for the bus. He recommends drivers know their routes.
“You know where these school buses are traveling, remember where you see children on the shoulder, always treat it if they are there. The children may have dark clothing and could dart out in the road, always proceed with caution and be on the look out for them,” he said.
Sutherland also asks parents to make sure people can see their children when they are walking to school or waiting on the bus. He recommends putting reflective tape on their book bag, or some type of light, and have them wear lighter clothing.
“To drivers, if you see a child approaching the road, go ahead and take caution and slow down and make eye contact with that child,” he said.
School zones have set speed limits at certain times, Sutherland says those signs are there for a reason, and drivers need to adhere to them. If a driver is caught going faster than that posted sign, the penalty is the same as regular speeding ticket.
“We do school zone enforcement, we go to different schools and enforce those laws and show people we are out there. Remind people to slow down and make sure people adhere to that speed limit,” Sutherland said.
For teen drivers, or parents taking their children to school, Sutherland says no matter how late you are, that is not an excuse to speed.
“Every young driver, your parents, teachers, faculty, they want you to arrive to school alive. You don’t wanna take the chance if you are running late to speed and possibly get in a collision and injure yourself or someone else,” he said. “Education doesn’t do you any good if you are hurt or don’t make it to begin with.”
He also wants drivers to remember to focus 100 percent on driving. Anything that takes your eyes, hands or mind off the road is a distraction, that can be food, your phone or talking to someone in the car.
“Remember to keep your eyes, hands and mind on driving. That’s the main focus there,” Sutherland said.
For more safety tips, visit scdps.gov/tz.
Reach Andrew Wigger at 803-276-0625 ext. 1867 or on Twitter @TheNBOnews.