Slow down! Area schools open Tuesday

Since 2009, five children on their way to school have been hit by cars.

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A new school year starts Tuesday, which means it's time to slow down -- s-l-o-w way down -- in school zones.

The speed limit in school zones when the yellow lights are flashing is 20 mph. Police officers and sheriff's deputies are patroling the school zones and will issue tickets.

But avoiding a ticket is not the only reason to reduce your speed, nor is it the most important one. Children, often distracted, are walking to and from school. This can easily put them in harm's way. If you are traveling too fast it creates a dangerous situation. A child could be hit causing serious injury or even death.

Kathryn Southwick-Hess, co-chairwoman, of the local Safe Travels Alliance, recently wrote a letter to the editor (published Aug. 17) noting that since 2009, five children on their way to school have been hit by cars. That's a startling number of accidents in a two-year period for a relatively small city such as Walla Walla.

And it should be enough to make drivers realize that accidents do happen. The more that can be done to prevent accidents the better it is for kids and for drivers.

Southwick-Hess offered some good advice in her letter.

"Drivers must slow down, stay off cellphones, pay attention to crosswalks, school patrols and obey traffic laws. Parents dropping off/picking up their kids need to do the same and also avoid making those 'quick' U-turns in traffic in front of schools," she wrote.

In addition, she suggests parents be proactive and teach (or review) with kids basic traffic rules for those who walk and ride their bikes.

Drivers being attentive will be particularly important this fall because of all the road construction in the city. People are being detoured to unfamiliar routes and kids could be darting out from behind heavy equipment.

The areas around Sharpstein Elementary and Walla Walla High School could be particularly challenging.

The bottom line: Drivers must be alert for children and slow down to 20 mph in school zones.

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