Officials: Think safety around school zones

As area students prepare to go back to school for the fall semester, local emergency officials are urging parents and guardians to take time to ready children for their daily trek to class.Big Spring Fire Department Chief Craig Ferguson said many children will be making the trip to school each day on foot and called for parents and motorists to do their part to watch out for local youth.“With summer coming to an end and the start of the school year just around the corner, we want to remind parents and drivers to do their part to keep kids safe as they walk to school,” Ferguson said. “Parents should be proactive and take the time to talk about safety with their kids before they head back to school.“The Big Spring Fire Department recommends parents walk the route to school with students before the start of the year to assess hazards and select a course with the least number of traffic crossings. Remember, children should cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks.”Ferguson said it's important for parents to not only teach children safe habits when walking to and from school, but to also demonstrate those same habits themselves.“Children learn by watching adults,” Ferguson said. “When you follow these safety tips, your children will see that.”Ferguson said children should cross the street with an adult until they are at least 10 years old and should be careful not to run out into a street or step out between parked cars.“Also, make sure they always walk in front of the bus where the driver can see them,” Ferguson said.Teaching students to be safe is only a part of the equation, however, as careful motorists are also a necessary ingredient, according to Ferguson.“Slow down and be especially alert in the residential neighborhoods and school zones,” he said. “Take extra time to look for kids at intersections, on medians and on curbs and 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 and 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.”One new law motorists traveling through school zones will have to remember is the ban on cell phones. According to state law, anyone caught using a cell phone while driving near a school faces a fine of up to $200. Cell phone usage in these areas are allowed only in case of emergency or if the vehicle is stopped.Speed is another issue Big Spring Police Department Sgt. Everett said local officers will be watching closely, so when the sign says 20 mph — it means 20 mph.“The speed limits will be strictly enforced,” said Everett. “We take this very seriously. We’re going to be working as many school zones as we can. We’re not just going to do this at the high school. We’re going to put officers in as many school zones as we can.”