Drivers are already noticing the increased congestion on Roanoke roads during morning and afternoon rushes as children head back to school. In addition to those on buses and in parent drop-off and pick-up lanes, a fair portion of students walk or ride bicycles.
Motorists who are speeding, rolling through stop signs or paying more attention to their phones than the surrounding environment could make a split-second mistake they'll forever regret.
The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) published a strategic five-year plan to achieve safer school commutes for youngsters, with many millions of dollars in funding infrastructure and non-infrastructure initiatives. They seek to fulfill the following goals:
- Encouraging and enabling children to bike and walk to school
- Making bicycling and walking to and from school safer and more appealing
- Arranging activities and projects near school zones to lower traffic volumes and air pollution and bolster student pedestrian and bicyclist safety
Still, there are many trouble spots that remain, some of which are here in Roanoke. For instance, VirginiaFirst.com reported major frustrations and concerns about child pedestrian safety on Overlook Road, thanks to Colonial Avenue roundabout construction that's causing heightened congestion. Parents are especially concerned about the children crossing the street on foot heading to Fishburn Park Elementary School, especially with the added stress of school buses.
Driver Tips for Safer Student Commutes
The National Safety Council (NSC) recently outlined a list of tips for drivers now sharing the road with student commuters, particularly bicyclists and pedestrians. Students who take the bus are also most likely to be hit while they are pedestrians — either by the bus itself or another motorist who illegally passes a stopped bus. Children ages 4 to 7 are the most at risk.
- Drivers shouldn't block a crosswalk while waiting to make a turn or while stopped at a red light. It forces walkers to go around you, potentially placing them in conflict with other dangerous traffic.
- Never honk or rev your engine at pedestrians, particularly children. You could scare them into doing something that puts their lives and others' safety in jeopardy.
- Do not pass any vehicles that are stopped for pedestrians.
- If a school crossing guard holds up a stop sign, make sure you stop.
- Use extra caution in watching for children in school zones, residential areas and in parks and playgrounds, particularly during the school hour morning rush.
- Give child bicyclists headed to school at least three feet of clearance when passing them.
- Keep an eye out for children on bicycles who might turn in front of you without first signaling or looking.
- If you are turning left and see a bicyclist approaching in the other direction, wait for the cyclist to pass. Similarly, if you're making a right turn, be sure to double check for children on bikes approaching from behind on your right. If you spot any, let them go through first.
During this time of year, weather conditions can be inclement. It's best to prepare for heavy rain and wet road surfaces by giving yourself plenty of time and reducing your speed.