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School starts soon

caution urged

August 19, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - With the Washington County Public Schools system set to resume classes on Aug. 25, motorists soon will be sharing the roads with school buses.

The Hagerstown Police Department, Washington County Sheriffs Department and the Maryland State Police all have programs aimed at monitoring drivers during the first weeks of the school year and citing those who violate laws.

The advice of Sheriff's 1st Sgt. Robert Leatherman is simple: "Leave yourself plenty of time to get where you are going."

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He and others will watch for drivers who try to go around stopped school buses that have their red lights flashing, he said.

"Red lights do mean stop," he said.

Maryland State Police Cpl. Jeff Kissner said a school bus patrol will enforce the law, watch bus routes and check for drivers who are violating traffic laws.

Motorists also should watch for students darting into the street, Hagerstown Police Lt. Richard Reynolds said.

Hagerstown police officers will be watching for speeding in school zones, among other infractions, Reynolds said.

Speed trailers, which have devices that indicate how fast passing vehicles are traveling, will be set up around the city. In some cases, a police officer will be nearby with a radar gun, prepared to issue citations, Reynolds said.

"Children get caught up in the excitement of going back to school, seeing their friends again, and they often forget to look both ways," John White, public and government relations manager for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said in a news release. "At the same time, many younger pedestrians have trouble accurately judging traffic speed and distance. For these reasons, drivers need to be particularly careful at this time of year in order to avoid tragic accidents."

White said that according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics, one-fifth of all children 14 years of age and younger who die in traffic accidents are pedestrians.

These pedestrian fatalities are more likely to happen in the afternoon hours, he said.

Nearly half of child pedestrian deaths occur between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., he said.

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