For Hometown News
As the school year begins in Volusia County, students and parents alike will be greeted with a slew of changes that included new street lights, sidewalks and signs along with a reduced speed zone and changes in traffic patterns.
There also will be beefed- up law enforcement, all in an effort to improve the safety of students who walk, ride their bike or are driven to school every day.
"Whether you're a pedestrian or a driver, our message is the same: Stay alert, avoid distractions and put safety first," said Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson. "The start of the school year can be very hectic. So as we all return to our back-to-school routines, motorists and pedestrians need to be especially cautious around schools, buses and crossing zones. Everyone needs to think safety first."
Sheriff Johnson's safety message comes after a year in which students on their way to and from campus in Volusia County during the last school year were struck and injured in collisions with vehicles at a near record pace.
In response, law enforcement, schools and traffic engineers joined forces in a search for safety improvements. A number of enhancements have already been implemented in the Orange City area, where many of last year's accidents occurred. At the request of Sheriff Johnson, the Florida Department of Transportation has established a new school zone at U.S. Highway 17-92 and Rhode Island Avenue to help slow down traffic. During school hours, the speed limit through the designated zone will be reduced to 20 mph.
In addition, the School District in conjunction with the Orange City Police Department unveiled a new traffic patterns to improve safety and traffic flow around Manatee Cove Elementary School and River Springs Middle School. Additional sidewalks, street lighting and signage also have been brought on line in Orange City as well. There are also some changes in the location of school crossing guards serving the elementary schools in the county.
The changes are as follows: Crossing guards are being added at the following two locations to serve elementary school students each school morning and afternoon:
.U.S. Highway 17-92/Rhode Island Avenue, Orange City
.Big Tree Road/Ridgewood Avenue, South Daytona
The following two locations will no longer have a posted crossing guard:
.Sparkman Avenue/West Blue Springs Avenue, Orange City
. Big Tree Road/Golfview Boulevard, South Daytona
Here are some additional safety tips to keep in mind as the school year gets ready to kick off:
.If you drive your children to school, drop them off and pick them up as close to the school as possible. If the school has a drop-off area, be sure to use it.
.Slow down and watch out for school zones and children walking or biking to school or congregating near bus stops. Also, be alert for student drivers.
.When turning at an intersection, be sure to yield to pedestrians and cyclists.
. If your child is walking to school or a bus stop, plan a safe route and make sure your child knows the route and can navigate it safely.
Choose the most direct route with the fewest street crossings. If a school crossing guard is available, be sure that your child crosses at that location. If your child is young or is walking to a new school, walk the route with them beforehand and continue to walk with them for the first week until they're comfortable with the route.
For students who ride the bus:
.Stay out of the street while waiting for the bus.
.Wait for the bus to come to a complete stop and the doors open before approaching the bus from the curb.
.Make sure you remain in clear view of the bus driver. Never walk behind the bus.
.Look both ways before crossing the street to get on the bus.
. After getting off the bus, look both ways and then move immediately onto the sidewalk and out of traffic.
For walkers/bike riders:
.For bike riders, wear a properly-fitted helmet at all times.
Research shows that this simple act can reduce the risk of head injury by up to 85 percent. Also, riders should use a bike that's the right size for them and make sure that they don't have any loose clothing, drawstrings or shoelaces.
.Bike riders should ride on the right, in the same direction as traffic, and use appropriate hand signals. Bicyclists also should respect traffic lights and stop signs.
.Walk or bike with a friend. It's safer that way.
.Walk on sidewalks where available.
.Always cross at intersections.
.Both bikers and walkers should wear bright clothing to make them more visible to drivers.
.To avoid distractions, bikers and walkers shouldn't use a cell phone or headphones.