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'School's Open, Drive Carefully': A life-saving message for 77 years


Thu, Aug 31st 2023 08:00 pm

AAA, NYS Police, Erie County clerk, Sheriff’s Office, Buffalo PD partner on safety

By AAA of Western and Central New York

AAA Western and Central New York, along with law enforcement, has kicked off its annual “School’s Open, Drive Carefully” campaign as back-to-school season gets underway. With school buses back on the roads, commuters should give themselves extra time and be prepared for bus traffic. Motorists should also be cognizant of less-experienced students drivers returning to high school and college.

AAA’s “School’s Open, Drive Carefully” campaign was launched nationally in 1946 to help reduce the number of school-related pedestrian injuries and fatalities. Now, 77 years later, AAA clubs across the country continue to promote the campaign annually to remind motorists to watch out for children as they travel to and from school.

“All drivers need to recognize the special safety needs of pedestrians and especially young children,” said Tony Spada, president and CEO at AAA Western and Central New York. “Drivers are obligated to exercise great care and extreme caution near a school or playground. Children are often the least predictable and the most difficult to see.”

The New York State Police and the Erie County Clerk’s Office are reminding motorists to respect school buses.

Erie County Clerk Michael P. Kearns said, “As children across Erie County start heading back to school, many for the first time, the ‘big yellow school buses’ will once again dot our roadways. I want to remind motorists to not drive distracted, follow the ‘rules of the road’ in school zones, and be alert for children approaching or exiting school buses. If we all exercise a little extra care and stop when a school bus flashes its red lights, drivers and students can coexist and, together, we will all enjoy the new school year safely.”

Trooper James O’Callaghan of the New York State Police, Troop A, explained, “Every year, we have people passing buses – you’re talking five points, $250 to $1,000 fine. But the reality is, you could kill or hurt someone in this community by passing that school bus, and it’s scary as a parent.”

The Erie County Sheriff’s Office advises drivers to put their phones down.

“In addition to moving violations, the Erie County Sheriff’s Office will be vigilant in the enforcement of distracted driving,” Erie County Undersheriff William Cooley said. “Distracted driving is a major issue on the roadways of Erie County and is a constant contributing factor in motor vehicle accidents. The use of cellphones and other electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle in the state of New York is illegal and will be strictly enforced when observed by deputies conducting traffic enforcement.”

With so many children walking to school in the city, Capt. Marcus Rogowski, from the Buffalo Police Department, warned motorists to be aware of pedestrians: “For drivers, that means being more alert, being conscious and aware that students and their parents will be along roadways waiting at bus stops and crossing city streets.”

As children go back to school, AAA offers helpful reminders:

√ Always stop for a school bus when the lights are flashing

√ Slow down

√ Remove all distractions from the driver – put cell phones down

√ Do not pass other vehicles

√ Obey crossing guards at all times

√ Expect the unexpected

√ Check your mirrors before moving

√ Teach your children the rules of traffic safety

For more information on traffic safety, visit www.AAA.com/TrafficSafety.

As upstate New York’s largest member services organization, AAA Western and Central New York provides more than 887,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1900, AAA has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Visit AAA at www.AAA.com.

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