Give our children a brake


It’s a message we emphasize every year, because it is so important: School is back in session, so it’s time for drivers to slow down.

Across Nassau County, schools reopened this week, with tens of thousands of students heading back to class in their new sneakers, their new backpacks filled with supplies. Drivers no doubt are noticing that the roads have become more congested, and when that happens, their frustration often reaches new heights.

But we must not let these frustrations get the best of us. We must exercise extra caution on the road, particularly in school zones, near crosswalks and in residential neighborhoods. Children use many means to get to school — buses, cars, bicycles and their feet — and we drivers must be cognizant of all of these.

School zone speed limits are typically 10 to 15 mph below the normal speed limit, and in New York state they are in effect from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on school days. We realize that driving 20 mph can feel awfully slow, but the safety of children must be the top priority. We urge drivers to take note of school speed limits and adhere to them.

This year there is extra incentive to slow down, as school-zone speed cameras are making their debut. Each district in Nassau County is getting one, which means there will be 56 up and running this fall. Drivers can be ticketed for going 10 or more mph over the school zone speed limit, and the fine is $80.

Another law that might not be well known is that U-turns are illegal in school zones. This regulation went into effect just last year. While U-turns were already prohibited in front of many schools, a statewide law now forbids them on all roads abutting schools.

Also, avoid double parking in a school zone. This creates dangerous situations. School zones become congested at drop-off and pickup times, and as a result, cars can often be spread two and three wide across a road already crowded with young pedestrians. Not only does this create a hazard for other drivers, but it makes it extremely unsafe for children to cross the street, as cars often impede their views or the views of other drivers. If there is no spot close to the school where you’re picking up your child, then look for one a block or two away. Kids need exercise.

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