Starting lasy week, many motorists will notice – or let’s say, should notice – some changes as they drive to and from work, run errands or attend events.

With schools resuming classes for the fall semester, they’ll see children walking along the streets in the mornings and afternoons, cars lined up at school buildings to drop off and pick up students, and buses traveling roads and streets, carrying precious cargo.

Now that classes have begun, that means, for safety’s sake, motorists will need to turn up their alertness level, take extra care to obey traffic signs and signals, slow down and perhaps allow extra time to get where they are going so as not to harm any of those children.

Each year, about 17,000 children are treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries associated with school buses, either while riding if a crash occurs, getting on or off the bus, or standing near the bus, according to Stanford Children’s Health. An average of seven school-age passengers are killed in school bus crashes each year, and 19 are killed getting on and off the bus, according to School Transportation News.

It behooves motorists to follow these guidelines from AAA East Central:

● Obey school zone speed limits and the instructions of crossing guards if they are present. Slowing down can go a long way in saving the lives of students; a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 20 mph is about two-thirds less likely to be killed as compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 30 mph, according to AAA.

● Ditch distractions: Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing. Reduce risk by not using your cell phone, eating or practicing any other form of driving “Intexticated.”

● Don’t rush into and out of driveways. Expect pedestrians on the sidewalk, especially around schools and in neighborhoods.

● Stop at stop signs: Research shows that more than a third of drivers roll through stop signs in school zones or neighborhoods.

● Watch for bikes: Children on bicycles are often unpredictable; expect the unexpected. Slow down and allow at least three feet of passing distance between your vehicle and a bicyclist.

● 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.

● Plan ahead: Leave early for your destination and build in extra time for congestion. If possible, modify your route to avoid school zones.

Let’s all do our part to make this a safe school year. Being vigilant as a driver and obeying traffic laws should be a year-round practice of motorists, but as the school year begins, there’s no better time for drivers to recommit.

Editor’s note: “Other Voices” does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Register-Herald.

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