WPD urges drivers to slow down as school year gears up

The first few weeks of school are filled with excitement and the promise of new possibilities. However, this time of year, the traffic increases as school buses pick up students, while others ride bikes or walk, and harried parents fight for a spot to drop their kids off before work. In the rush to get to school or get to work it’s easy to forget that driving safety rules still apply. 

The Winnemucca Police Department urges drivers to slow down and use caution as the school year gears up especially before and after school hours. 

According to research by the National Safety Council, most of the children who lose their lives in bus-related incidents are four to seven years old, and they're walking. They are hit by the bus, or by a motorist illegally passing a stopped bus. 

The most dangerous time for the school zone and beyond is the after-school period from 3-4 p.m. That's when more school-age pedestrians are killed by motorists than at any other time of day, according to the American Automobile Association.

A few precautions go a long way toward keeping children safe:

• Don't block the crosswalk when stopped at a red light or waiting to make a turn, forcing pedestrians to go around you; this could put them in the path of moving traffic.

• In a school zone when flashers are blinking, stop and yield to pedestrians crossing the crosswalk or intersection. Be aware that some guards walk to the middle of the intersection, stopping traffic on all sides.

• Always stop for a school patrol officer or crossing guard holding up a stop sign.

• Take extra care to look out for children in school zones, near playgrounds and parks, and in all residential areas.

• Don't honk or rev your engine to scare a pedestrian, even if you have the right of way.

• Never pass a vehicle stopped for pedestrians.

• Always use extreme caution to avoid striking pedestrians wherever they may be, no matter who has the right of way.

If you're driving behind a bus, allow a greater following distance than if you were driving behind a car. It will give you more time to stop once the yellow lights start flashing. 

According to the Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) 484B.353 it is illegal to overtake and pass a school bus. It is a misdemeanor and subject to fines and suspension of a person’s driver’s license. 

On most roads, bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as vehicles, but bikes can be hard to see. Children riding bikes create special problems for drivers because usually they are not able to properly determine traffic conditions. The most common cause of collision is a driver turning left in front of a bicyclist. When sharing the road with bicyclists, remember:

• When passing a bicyclist, proceed in the same direction slowly, and leave 3 feet between your car and the cyclist

• When turning left and a bicyclist is approaching in the opposite direction, wait for the rider to pass

• If you're turning right and a bicyclist is approaching from behind on the right, let the rider go through the intersection first, and always use your turn signals

• Watch for bike riders turning in front of you without looking or signaling; children especially tend to do this

• Be extra vigilant in school zones and residential neighborhoods

• Watch for bikes coming from driveways or behind parked cars

• Check side mirrors before opening your door

If you're dropping off students, know what the specific drop-off procedures for the school year. Make sure you know them for the safety of all kids. The following apply to all school zones:

• Don't double park; it blocks visibility for other children and vehicles.

• Don't load or unload children across the street from the school.

• Carpool to reduce the number of vehicles at the school.