School is officially back in session in Mishawaka and the city's police and fire departments are teaming up to keep your kids safe when they walk to class.
Starting Tuesday, motorists will see flashing yellow lights or caution signs in school zones alerting them to slow down and stay off their cell phones.
The program, called "Cool Your Engines," was started four years ago to remind drivers to look out for the children who walk or bike to school.
Mishawaka is considered a walking district, since they don't have buses for students.
But officials said accidents are easily preventable if kids and motorists are alert and aware of their surroundings.
"As long as our drivers are mindful of kids, and the kids are mindful of the drivers, you know, that they cross at the crossing corners or with the crossing guards, and they're watching traffic, and if our students walk defensively, and the drivers drive defensively, it'll be a good year,” said Dr. Terry Barker, superintendent of School City of Mishawaka
Remember, speed limits in school zones are either 20 or 25 miles per hour and you cannot be on your cell phone while you're driving through one!
Mishawaka police will be watching closely and enforcing these laws.
Look for more tips on how your kids can stay safe while walking to and from school below.
Meantime, South Bend police are also stepping up their efforts to stop distracted and dangerous drivers from putting students in danger.
Officers will be increasing traffic patrols around the school zones in their beats.
That campaign will kick off Wednesday morning.
BACK TO SCHOOL SAFETY TIPS:
Walking and Biking to School
Even if you don't ride in a motor vehicle, you still have to protect yourself. Because of minimal supervision, young pedestrians face a wide variety of decisions making situations and dangers while walking to and from school. Here are a few basic safety tips to follow:
• Mind all traffic signals and/or the crossing guard -- never cross the street against a light, even if you don't see any traffic coming.
• Walk your bike through intersections.
• Walk with a buddy.
• Wear reflective material...it makes you more visible to street traffic.
Drivers – Always be ready to slow down in School Zones
Whether you are driving to work, or dropping a child off at school you will pass several children walking or riding their bikes to school. Mishawaka does not have a busing program where children are picked up and transported to school by bus. If our children are not taken to school by their parents, they either walk or ride their bikes to school. Mishawaka has 21 Crossing Guards that work 20 busy intersections assuring our children cross the busy intersections safely. To assure our children arrive safely at school each school has a school zone where the speed limit is lowered from the original speed. Drivers are urged to use caution in construction zones making sure to slow down. This is where drivers need to pay better attention. The speed limit in school zones are either 20 mph or 25 mph. Each school zone is marked with either flashing yellow lights or yellow caution signs that show it’s a school zone. Officers of the Mishawaka Police Department will be enforcing the speed limit laws in all school zones.
Drivers – Always be ready to stop for school buses
Whether on a city street, highway or county road, and regardless of the speed limit and the number of lanes, motorists traveling in both directions must stop when approaching a stopped school bus with its upper red lights flashing. A flashing stop arm will swing out while passengers are boarding or leaving the bus. (The only exception: on highways or roadways separated by a median, traffic coming from the opposite direction is not required to stop.) Once all passengers have boarded or exited, the STOP arm will fold away. Do not start moving until the red lights have stopped flashing and the bus begins to move.
Riding the Bus
School bus transportation is safe. In fact, buses are safer than cars!
Remember these safety tips:
• Have a safe place to wait for your bus, away from traffic and the street.
• Stay away from the bus until it comes to a complete stop and the driver signals you to enter.
•When being dropped off, exit the bus and walk ten giant steps away fr om the bus. Keep a safe distance between you and the bus. Also, remember that the bus driver can see you best when you are back away from the bus.
• Use the handrail to enter and exit the bus.
• Stay away from the bus until the driver gives his/her signal that it's okay to approach.
• Be aware of the street traffic around you. Drivers are required to follow certain rules of the road concerning school buses; however, not all do. Protect yourself and watch out!
Riding in a Car
• You might have heard before that most traffic crashes occur close to home ... they do.
• Safety belts are the best form of protection passengers have in the event of a crash. They can lower your risk of injury by 45%.
• You are four times more likely to be seriously injured or killed if ejected from the vehicle in a crash.
• Everyone needs to be buckled up properly. That means older kids in seat belts, younger kids in booster seats and little kids in child safety seats.
Lt. Tim Williams