BONNEVILLE COUNTY, Idaho (KIFI)- School is officially back in session for many of our local school districts which means drivers need to be on the lookout for school buses and school zones.
The Bonneville Sheriff's Office is reminding drivers to look for signs and lights that signal a school zone. They say many of the school zones have new signs and may have reconfigured traffic control near the school.
The sheriff's office says most school zones throughout Bonneville County have warning lights indicating reduced speeds when activated, however, drivers should pay close attention to signs that may not have a warning light and only indicate particular times of the day when the lower speed limit applies.
"It's not every single day that we have a crash in a school zone or related to someone traveling, over the speed limit in a school zone. They do happen fairly frequently throughout the year. And we definitely have a lot of close calls. Especially in our crosswalk areas and places with crossing guards," Sergeant Bryan Lovell of the Bonneville County Sheriff's Office.
They also remind us to look out for those yellow school buses as they pick up and drop off students daily for the school year.
"We constantly take school bus violations, vehicles that are passing school busses and not stopping when that stop arm is out and they're picking up and dropping off kids. And that's a very, risky thing to do to pass those busses when they're doing that," Sergeant Lovell said. He added that school bus violation issues are investigated 3-4 times per week during the school year.
"Busses are big and yellow and have flashing lights on them for a reason. Plus those stop arms that come out and most of them in the area are equipped with camera systems and everything these days, too," Sergeant Lovell said.
On roadways with two and three lanes, even if there is a center turn lane, motorists in both directions are required to stop until the lights go off and the stop sign is no longer displayed. On roadways with four or more lanes, motorists going the same direction as the bus are required to stop behind the bus, and motorists traveling in the opposite direction should slow and proceed with caution. Failing to stop for a school bus is a misdemeanor with fines starting at $200 for a first offense. Remember that most school buses are equipped with camera systems to aid in investigating these violations.
Students must look both ways before crossing the street and using the crosswalk. Many of those crosswalks have light indicators that pedestrians can trigger by pressing a button. There are also many crosswalks that have red lights that will stop traffic until clear.
"But we have a lot of crosswalks and intersections that aren't lighted. They are signed and pedestrians, if they're crossing the street, if there's no crosswalk, they should be crossing at intersections and in those areas and not just anywhere on the street. However, any time you're anywhere close to a school or school bus stop or busses, expect that there's going to be kids," Sergeant Lovell said.
Lovell added, that parents should remind their kids of the rules of the road before they get too far into the school year.
"I can't stress enough to parents to talk to their kids about, riding their bikes and walking to school. If you're not on the sidewalk and you're riding the bike, make sure you understand those rules of the road. If you're on the sidewalk and things go to those crosswalks, watch for traffic and do that appropriately," Sergeant Lovell said.
Deputies also remind commuters to plan ahead, don't get in a hurry, and take extra notice of the school zones and traffic signs.
"We do have some areas with some lengthy school zones where you have neighborhood access and driveways come out. They, may pull onto the road from those and you may not pass one of those signs, but you're in a school zone area. Especially if it's somewhere you're used to traveling. You don't know that ahead of time you might be in a school zone and you should, be cautious and not go over the speed limit there," said Sergeant Lovell.
He added that especially with many active construction zones all over the county some detours may take you through a school zone that might not be a usual part of your commute.
"We have a lot of construction areas and stuff still active that detours traffic through neighborhoods and maybe pushes some of that commuter traffic through a school zone that they're not normally used to traveling through. So, people take a moment and remember or build that extra buffer in their day so that they don't have to be in a hurry," Sergeant Lovell said.
The biggest thing commuters need to do Sergeant Lovell said is to keep an eye out for the signs marking the school zone, and kids in the area and be patient.
He adds that this is especially true as the sun may rise and eventually set in your line of vision while driving.
"If the sun's in your eyes, take some extra care, if it's raining or if it's low visibility. We're going to be coming up in winter soon. I don't want to jinx it, but we're coming up on winter soon and we're going to get those slip roads and low visibility times. You know, when you have those conditions, it's the driver's responsibility to, you know, take a little extra caution and slow down," said Lovell.