NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — With a number of Middle Tennessee districts kicking off the new school year this week, multiple law enforcement agencies have issued reminders about the importance of safe driving as children travel to and from school.
For example, the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System is starting the semester with a half-day on Monday, Aug. 7.
Since Clarksville led all Tennessee cities in year-over-year population growth for the second year in a row, the Clarksville Police Department issued a statement reminding motorists that it is crucial to be aware of the times and speed limits for school zones — which are marked with flashing lights or traffic signs — due to the number of kids walking to school.
“Please pay attention to the School Crossing Guards or Officers directing traffic and follow their directions,” the department said. “By slowing down, paying attention, and being mindful of your surroundings will help ensure the safety of all of our children.”
Students at Rutherford County Schools and Murfreesboro City Schools also have their first day on Monday. As a result, Sgt. Shawn Vinson with the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office urged drivers to plan to leave early for work or other places when traveling through school zones.
According to officials, Rutherford County deputies, Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers, and Murfreesboro police officers will enforce traffic laws in school zones throughout the county. Meanwhile, school crossing officers will direct traffic and guide drivers, and flashing lights showing slower speeds will notify motorists about the school zones.
“Slow down and just pay attention,” Vinson said. “There will be drivers who will be unfamiliar with school areas. Patience is a virtue you will need during this time.”
Police also want motorists to remember Tennessee is a “Hands-Free” state, which means it’s illegal for drivers to do the following:
- Hold a cellphone or mobile device with any part of your body
- Write, send, or read any text-based communication
- Reach for a cell phone or mobile device in a manner that requires you to no longer be in a seated driving position or properly restrained by a seatbelt
- Watch a video or movie on a cellphone or mobile device
- Record or broadcast video on a cellphone or mobile device
“Deputies will be out enforcing traffic laws in the school zones, not only for speed and improper traffic flow, but also for impairment, distracted driving with the use of cell phones and navigational devices,” Vinson said.
In addition, authorities said drivers should be aware of students boarding buses before school and getting off buses after school.
According to Clarksville Police Department, when school buses stop on the road in order to load or unload students, and the visual signals — namely, the red lights and stop signs — are activated, all traffic needs to stop.
“This includes roadways such as Tiny Town Rd. that do not have a divider between East and West Traffic, this is not considered separate roadways,” officials said.
The Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office also shared a few school bus safety tips from the National Highway Traffic Safety Board:
- When you see a school bus slowing down or stopping, you need to have your eyes on the bus, as well as the surrounding area. After all, kids not only wait at least several feet away from a bus, but they also tend to cross the street when they’re boarding or exiting the bus.
- Yellow flashing lights indicate the bus is getting ready to stop in order to load or unload children, which means you should slow down and prepare to stop your vehicle.
- Red flashing lights and extended stop-arms indicate the bus has stopped and kids are getting on or off. The law requires you to stop your car and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop-arm is withdrawn, and the bus begins moving before you can start driving again.
- Illegal school bus passing poses a serious threat to children, along with other people on the road.
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