The Free Press, Mankato, MN

September 6, 2013

Police ask motorists to use caution around schools, school buses

By Robb Murray

---- — With kids back in school, Mankato police are hoping motorists can re-educate themselves on the school street driving this month.

"We try to set the tone at the beginning of the school year," said Matt Westermayer, deputy director of the Mankato Department of Public Safety.

So far this year, thankfully, there haven't been any fender benders or pedestrians hit in the immediate areas of the schools. But that can change on any given morning, so police offer the following tips and advice on how best to roll through school zones.

• Motorists must stop at least 20 feet from a school bus that is displaying red flashing lights and/or has its stop arm extended. This applies whether you're approaching from the front, rear or sides.

• Reduce speeds in and around school zones. School zone speed limits are 20 mph during posted times on school days and are aggressively enforced.

• Watch for students on bicycles, for pedestrians stepping off curbs and crossing streets and anticipate the unexpected.

One method that helps children get to school safely, police say, is the walking school bus program, which is in being used this year by students at Rosa Parks Elementary School. Trained volunteers organize routes and take children to and from the school each day. In addition, crosswalks, signs and pedestrian crossing signals are in place as part of the walking school bus routes.

"The walking school bus is a great example of citizens working together for children's safety," Westermayer said. "All of us can do our part by slowing down, scanning and being vigilant for students and pedestrians because it benefits everyone's safety."