Back to School – Safely!

Students in the District returned to school today. We wish them all a very productive year in the classroom! We also want to ensure they can focus on their studies and won’t have to be concerned about getting to and from school safely.

Over the summer, while the children were hopefully enjoying their time off, our Field Operations crews have been busy adding new pavement markings to alert drivers when they are approaching school zones. DDOT also deploys dozens of school crossing guards to crossing points across the city before and after school each day.

But, we all have assignments when it comes to protecting our children. First and foremost, DDOT’s Safe Routes to School program reminds drivers to take extra precaution when travelling in school zones, because a child is no match for a heavy car. Also, students walking and biking to school can take a few simple steps to help protect themselves. We offer the following tips for everyone – follow them and you might get a gold star for safety!

Reminders for Drivers:

  •  Slow down. Observe the speed limit in school zones at all times.
  • Be especially careful when driving on neighborhood streets and around school zones. Always expect the unexpected.
  • If your car is parked in an area signed “No Parking School Days,” be sure to move it by the start time on the sign.
  • Watch for children on bicycles, especially at intersections.
  • Drivers should avoid distractions while driving, such as texting, talking on cell phones, eating and adjusting the radio.
  • Stop your car when you see lights flashing on a school bus. Red flashing lights indicate that the bus is stopped and students are getting on or off. Don’t start driving until the red lights stop flashing. Be aware that a child may dash across the street.

Safety Tips for Pedestrians:

  • Walk in groups; there is safety in numbers. Groups are more likely to be seen by drivers. Consider starting a “walking school bus,” in which an adult accompanies a group of neighborhood children walking to school.
  • Cross the street safely:
  • Stop at the curb, or the edge of the street.
    o Look left, right, left and behind you and in front of you for traffic.
    o Wait until no traffic is coming and begin crossing.
    o Walk, don’t run across the street.
  • Do not text or talk on cell phones while walking and/or crossing street.

Safety Tips for Bicyclists:

  • Wear a helmet.
  • Look and listen for traffic and other things that could make you fall, like potholes and storm grates.
  • Watch for vehicles going in and out of driveways and alleys.
  • Keep both hands on the handlebars, except when signaling.
  • Stop before crossing the street, entering a road, or turning. Look left, right, left, and behind you for traffic, including pedestrians, bicycles, and cars.
  • If you are allowed to ride in the street:
    o Ride in single file and in the same direction as cars.
    o Ride to the right side of the road, but far enough away from parked cars to avoid any car doors that suddenly open.
    o Obey traffic laws.
    o Be predictable. Ride in a straight line, not in and out of cars. Use hand signals.
  • Do not text or talk on cell phones or listen to headphones while biking.

We’re Here to Help:

Do you want to continue the conversation about safe walking and biking at your child’s school? Did you know that the District Department of Transportation is available to help schools create Safe Routes to School Action Plans?

Schools that sign up for the program will receive the following:

  • Help with the identification of barriers to safe walking and bicycling to school and the development of a Safe Routes to School Action Plan to address the barriers. The Action Plan will cover each of the five E’s (education, engineering, enforcement, encouragement, and evaluation).
  • Pedestrian and bicycle safety training in the classroom.
  • Ideas about what has worked at other schools across the country.
  • Technical assistance with the implementation of education, enforcement, evaluation, and encouragement programs.
  • Expert assistance in the development of engineering recommendations to improve the safety of children walking and bicycling to school.
  • Small prizes to be used as incentives to encourage students to walk and bicycle to school.

SAVE THE DATE! Wednesday, October 3, 2012 is International Walk to School Day.  Register and learn more about how to get started by visiting www.walkbiketoschool.org.

Let’s all keep safety as top priority to provide a safe and promising school year for our children!

Learn More: If you would like to learn more about the Safe Routes to School program, please contact me at 202-671-2227 or jennifer.hefferan@dc.gov.

Jennifer Hefferan
DDOT Safe Routes to School Coordinator

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