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School zone safety should be top of mind as classes begin

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With area schools opening this week, Sedalia police urge motorists to watch out for children in school zones, bus stops, and crossing streets. With new classes and old friends waiting, kids may be focused on getting to class, not crossing the street safely.

Commander Joshua Howell with the Sedalia Police Department says it's never a good idea to speed through school zones.

“Absolutely not. It's never worth the child’s safety,” Howell said. “Obviously, it's a very busy time of the day for those folks who are dropping kids off or traveling through. People generally have somewhere else to be afterwards and they're in a hurry and they're distracted.”

Police put out extra patrols to watch for drivers who haven’t noticed the new disruption to their daily commutes: school zones.

“Usually on opening day we make sure there are extra police patrols to make sure things go smoothly as people get used to the routine and the traffic flow,” Howell said. “It's always an area of focus, especially for traffic officers.”

Yellow crosswalk signs warn of kids who may be crossing the road with or without crossing guards. Flashing school zone signs warn drivers of the school zone speed limit, generally 15 miles per hour.

“We focus a lot of patrols in the school zones,” Howell said. “Especially during drop-off times to make sure we're enforcing the speed limit.”

Hefty fines of up to $226 depending on speed and even mandatory court appearances are meant to dissuade heavy-footed drivers in school zones.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol says that in 2020, luckily, no one was killed in traffic collisions with school buses, though 152 people were injured in the 453 accidents that involved school buses statewide.

The highway patrol urges parents to talk with their children about safety when riding school buses, crossing streets, or riding bicycles to school. Kids on bikes are cautioned to wear helmets and obey traffic laws.

Kids old enough to drive to school are especially at risk as most traffic crashes involving young drivers (under the age of 21) occur between 3 and 4 p.m., when school typically lets out.

Parents need to warn children that using a cell phone while driving is extremely hazardous and texting while driving is against the law for any driver under the age of 22.

Howell warns that cell phones, radios and other distractions may prove hazardous to adult drivers as well as high schoolers.

Sedalia Public Works Director Brenda Ardrey had crews paint new crosswalks at Skyline Horace Mann and Washington elementary schools this summer.

“In the Skyline zone she has implemented some enhanced crosswalks,” Howell said. “They're more visible so they get the motorist's attention. They also added some other road paintings, crosshatch and directional errors, and even added signage just to give more advanced notice for motorists to slow down.”

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