By HDN Editorial Board
With the end of summer, students, parents and teachers begin another school year Wednesday in Havre. Parents breathe a sigh of relief, while students and teachers anticipate the challenges of the school year.
But the start of the school year also brings parents the anxiety of getting their children back and forth to school. Unfortunately, the beginning of school is a time when children are at increased risk of transportation-related injuries from pedestrian, bicycle, school bus and motor vehicle accidents because there are many more children on the road each morning and afternoon and many drivers' patterns change.
Significantly at risk are those kids walking or riding their bike to school and back. The U.S. Department of Transportation reported that in 1998 motor vehicles killed 5,220 pedestrians and injured 69,000 others. Pedestrians under the age of 15 accounted for one-fifth of those injured and 580 fatalities.
Starting tomorrow all of us should allow a little more time to get to work and back. The U.S. Highway Department every year issues a reminder for motorists to slow down and obey all traffic laws and speed limits. Always stop for a school bus that has stopped to load or unload passengers. Red flashing lights and an extended stop arm tell you the school bus is stopped to load or unload children. Montana law requires you to stop. Watch for children walking in the street, especially where there are no sidewalks. Look out for children playing and gathering near bus stops. Watch for children arriving late for the bus, who may dart into the street without looking for traffic. When backing out of a driveway or leaving a garage, look for children walking or biking to school.
Children are not small adults. Because they are short, it's harder for them to see you, and harder for you to see them. When kids see you, they wrongly assume, if they can see a motorist, that the driver can see them. Children have underdeveloped peripheral vision one-third that of adults, and they don't judge speed and distance as well as adults.
We urge everyone to start a little earlier and be more cautious commuting Wednesday. Be aware that kids don't always look both ways at intersections. Like the rest of us, their minds are apt to wander to more important topics, like the first day of school.