Safety urged as school starts around Walla Walla

Tuesday is the first day of school, which means lower speed limits and thousands of people on foot.

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WALLA WALLA -- More than 6,000 children will head back to school in Walla Walla, College Place and surrounding communities starting Tuesday. School and traffic safety officials want parents, children and community members to remember safety around schools as children and families prepare to hit the streets.

The start of the 2010-11 school year also means a return to school buses flowing through town, children walking or biking to and from school, and more families navigating in and out of schools with children.

Combined with the daily flow of traffic through town, the potential for accidents or collisions is a real concern.

Mark Higgins, Walla Walla Public Schools spokesman, said many families are navigating the trip to school, whether on foot or by car, for the first time.

"For some of the parents it is brand new," Higgins said. "Those first few days can be really tricky."

All drivers should remember that peak times are 7:30-8:30 a.m., and 2:30-3:30 p.m. weekdays, as children and families head to and from more than a dozen public and private schools.

"People have to be more attentive to school zones," Higgins said. The speed through marked school zones and with flashing lights is 20 mph during school hours. Drivers can also look for flashing yellow lights around schools that remind them when to slow to 20 mph.

Drivers should also be aware of buses picking up and dropping off children throughout the day. It is unlawful to pass a stopped school bus that is flashing its red light. Also watch for marked crosswalks with crossing guards stationed at various schools as children come and go during the peak morning and afternoon hours.

Maria P. Gonzalez can be reached at mariagonzalez@wwub.com or 526-8317. Check out her blog at blogs.ublabs.org/schoolhousemissives.

BACK TO SCHOOL SAFETY TIPS

Nancy McClenny-Walters of the Walla Walla County Traffic Safety Task Force shares the following tips, published by the child-safety nonprofit Safe Kids USA, on back-to-school safety:

  • Slow down and be especially alert in residential neighborhoods and school zones.
  • Take extra time to look for children at intersections, on medians and on curbs.
  • Always enter and exit driveways and alleys slowly and carefully.
  • Watch for children on and near the road in the morning and after school hours.
  • Reduce any distractions inside your car so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings. Put down your phone and don't talk or text while driving.
  • Children younger than 10 should cross the street with an adult.
  • Cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks.
  • Children should avoid running out into the streets or crossing between parked cars.
  • Children taking the school bus should walk in front of it as they exit, in sight of the driver.

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