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School starts soon; Drive carefully
Curb back-to-school tragedies with life-saving tips
crosswalk painting pic
Great Bend Public Works Street Division personnel are out painting crosswalks around schools, like this one at 21st and Harrison Monday morning, in preparation for school starting next week. Authorities are reminding drivers to be cautious with youngsters headed to and from classes. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

As summer draws to a close, the next couple of weeks are when most Kansas students return back to schools across the state, creating safety concerns for the children and motorists. Classes start in Great Bend next week.

“It’s that time of year again and the Great Bend Police Department wishes to remind citizens that on Monday another school year will start for Great Bend students,” said Great Bend Police Chief David Bailey. “The Great Bend Police Department just wants to remind everyone to be care when they are driving.”

He warns drivers to be especially vigilant for pedestrians during before- and after-school hours. Nearly one-third of all child pedestrian fatalities in the United States occur between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. 

Through its annual ‘School’s Open – Drive Carefully’ public awareness campaign, AAA Kansas also aims to help reduce child pedestrian fatalities and injuries.

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling 25 miles per hour is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed as compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling just ten mph faster.

“Now is when motorists need to avoid distractions, and be much more aware and careful, as students head back to schools,” said Shawn Steward, AAA Kansas spokesman. “Kids will be walking and biking to school, getting on and off school buses and in and out of cars in carpool lines. All of these situations create extra hazards for drivers as well as the student pedestrians and bicyclists. In addition, many new, inexperienced teen drivers will be driving to school for the first time, creating additional concerns for traffic safety.”

Nearly one-fifth of traffic fatalities of children below the age of 15 are pedestrians, with more school-age pedestrians killed between the hours of 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. than any other time of day. 

“The kids will be excited to be back in school and may not be watching for cars,” Bailey said. It is up the motorists to be extra vigilant.

 Bailey and AAA Kansas offer these seven life-saving tips for motorists:

• Slow down. Speed limits in school zones are reduced for a reason. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 25 mph is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling just 10 mph faster.

• Eliminate distractions. Children often cross the road unexpectedly and may emerge suddenly between two parked cars. Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing. Put down the phone.

• Reverse responsibly. Every vehicle has blind spots. Check for children on the sidewalk, driveway and around your vehicle before slowly backing up. Teach your children to never play in, under or around vehicles—even those that are parked.

• Brake for buses. It may be tempting to drive around a stopped school bus, but not only is it dangerous, it’s against the law, no matter which direction you’re approaching the stopped bus from.

• Talk to your teen. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, and more than one in four fatal crashes involving teen drivers occur during the after-school hours of 3 to 7 p.m. Get evidence-based guidance and tips at

• Come to a complete stop. Research shows that more than one-third of drivers roll through stop signs in school zones or neighborhoods. Always come to a complete stop, checking carefully for children on sidewalks and in crosswalks before proceeding.

• Watch for bicycles. Children on bikes are often inexperienced, unsteady and unpredictable. Slow down and allow at least three feet of passing distance between your vehicle and the bicycle. If your child rides a bicycle to school, require that they wear a properly-fitted bicycle helmet on every ride.

AAA has more information to help keep children safe at

AAA Kansas is encouraging the public to take AAA’s “Don’t Drive Intexticated” pledge against distracted driving. 

“With more distractions than ever and the school year about to begin, motorists need to make a new commitment to put the phone away and watch out for students,” said Shawn Steward, AAA Kansas spokesman. Motorists can sign the pledge online at