As the 2019 school year begins in Otter Tail County and the surrounding area, drivers need to pay attention to increased pedestrian traffic.

Children began waiting at bus stops, walking or being dropped off at school today. School buses are making stops regularly in the early morning and midafternoon. Students will be in a hurry to get into school, see their friends or head back home.

This should keep drivers on the alert.

According to a report by NBC News, bus drivers reported over 95,000 illegal passes on a single day in 2019 nationally. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that, nationwide, close to 450,000 public school buses are on the highways, taking 23.5 million kids to and from school each day during the academic year.

According to NHTSA, here are a few rules for drivers to make transportation safer for everyone.

• When backing out of a driveway or leaving a garage, watch out for children walking or bicycling to school.

• When driving in neighborhoods with school zones, watch out for young people who may be thinking about getting to school, but may not be thinking of getting there safely.

• Slow down. Watch for children walking in the street, especially if there are no sidewalks in the neighborhood.

• Watch for children playing and congregating near bus stops.

• Be alert. Children arriving late for the bus may dart into the street without looking for traffic.

• Learn and obey the school bus laws in your state, as well as the “flashing signal light system” that school bus drivers use to alert motorists of pending actions: Yellow flashing lights indicate the bus is preparing to stop to load or unload children. Motorists should slow down and prepare to stop their vehicles. Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate the bus has stopped and children are getting on or off. Motorists must stop their cars and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop-arm is withdrawn, and the bus begins moving before they can start driving again.

Following these suggestions should allow for a safe school year on the roadways and hopefully, bring down the disturbing numbers of motorists running through stop-arms on buses that are being reported across the nation.

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