Traditional Values, Progressive Thinking – Tips to keep your kids safe as they head back to school

Mayor Gary Graham

Mayor Gary Graham

Over the next couple of weeks, the O’Fallon School Districts’ will welcome back all of the administrators, teachers, staff, and students for the new school year. As the school year begins, I would like to remind drivers to be extra cautious when driving in neighborhoods, near schools and around bus stops.

All motorists and O’Fallon residents should expect an increase in traffic during the morning and evening commutes. Drivers should be on the “look-out” for children walking and riding bicycles to and from school. Please remember: On a school day when school children are present, speed limits through school zones are 20 m.p.h.

The Police Department and I would like to share the following “back to school” safety tips with you:

Walking to school:

  • Map out with your children a safe way for them to walk to school or to the bus stop. Avoid busy roads and intersections. Do a trial run with them to point out places they should avoid along the way, such as vacant lots, construction areas, and parks where there aren’t many people.
  • Walk on the sidewalk, if one is available.
  • When on a street with no sidewalk, walk facing the traffic.
  • Teach children to follow traffic signals and rules when walking. Stress that they should cross the street at crosswalks or intersections.
  • Before you cross the street, stop and look left, right and left again to see if cars are coming.
  • Never dart out in front of a parked car.
  • Encourage children to walk to school or the bus stop with a sibling or friend, and to wait at bus stops with other children.
  •  Teach children not to talk to strangers, go anywhere with them, or accept gifts from them without your permission. Tell them that if they see a suspicious stranger hanging around or in their school they should tell an adult.

Biking to school:

  • Make sure your child always wears his/her helmet when leaving the house.
  • Teach your children the rules of the road.
  • Ride on the right side of the road, with traffic, and in a single file.
  • Come to a complete stop before crossing the street. Proceed to walk or bike across the street.
  • Riding the bus to school:
  • Have your children arrive at the bus stop at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to pick them up. Make sure children know to stand on the sidewalk or on the grass while waiting for the bus.
  • Teach children to make sure they can see the bus driver and the bus driver can see them before crossing in front of the bus. Tell them to never walk behind the bus.
  • Be aware that often bullying takes place on the school bus. Ask children about their bus – who they sit with, who they talk to, and what the other kids do. Let them know that if they see someone being bullied, or are bullied themselves, they can talk to you, the bus driver, or another trusted adult.

Motorists must remember to stop when a school bus has activated its lights and the stop sign is extended.  Drivers who fail to stop can face a fine of $150 and a three-month suspension of their driver’s license.

The goal of the OPD is to gain voluntary compliance of all the traffic laws through community awareness and education as well as enforcement programs.  If you have any questions I encourage you to contact the O’Fallon Police Department at (618) 624-4545.

The health and safety of our residents and their loved ones is very important to me and by working together we can make sure that everyone will remain safe as school resumes and throughout the school year. The strong working relationship between City Hall and the residents we serve is yet another example of why O’Fallon is such a great community in which to live.