Now that school is back in session in Sedalia, local law enforcement is reminding citizens to be a little more cautious — and patient — while driving near schools.
Many children walk to school in Sedalia School District 200 and at Sacred Heart, and high school drivers can be inexperienced on the roads, so it’s important to be mindful of driving through school zones before and after school.
“Drivers need to be super aware of what’s going on around them because kids are excited about school, getting home or on their way to school,” said Sedalia Police Department traffic officer Victoria Kottman. “Kids don’t think a lot about road safety as they should, because they’re kids, they’re thinking about other things. Drivers need to be hyper-aware of pedestrian traffic to and from school. Obviously there are lots of parents dropping off kids at school, so the start and end of school around schools can be highly congested, so be patient, be very aware of what’s going on around you and always buckle up the kiddos.”
According to a Missouri State Highway Patrol release, most traffic crashes involving drivers under the age of 21 in 2014 occurred between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., when school typically lets out. School zones can have heavy traffic during those times, and it’s important for young drivers to remember distracted driving, such as using a cellphone or adjusting the radio, can lead to an accident.
Kottman also had advice for students who walk to school each day.
“They should always use a sidewalk when one is provided. Horseplay should be kept to a minimum so they don’t get out in the street,” she advised. “Always walk with a buddy, that’s always good advice, and always remember stranger danger.
“Especially in the early morning when the sun is just peeking out or as the season changes, for students walking to school in dark it’s good to wear light reflective clothing if they can or backpacks that have reflective material — something that causes them to be easily seen.”
SPD officers frequently help with traffic in school zones, and that is especially true this week with several changes in Sedalia’s two districts. SHS is using a new drop-off and pick-up system, and Sedalia 200 has moved sixth graders to Smith-Cotton Junior High and freshmen to Smith-Cotton High School.
“(Wednesday) Sacred Heart started and we spent (Wednesday) morning and afternoon trying to help them into a new drop-off/pick-up schedule. They’re doing some fine tuning with that so it helps with the chaos and once the first week settling-in jitters get over with, they’ll get a good routine started,” Kottman said.
SPD officers helped SHS again Thursday afternoon. Kottman said she believed the new system “has potential” and it will help the process become more efficient and safer for all involved.
“Our main goal is the safety of the kids,” she said.
Kottman noted there were a few traffic challenges out of their control Wednesday and Thursday, such as a lane restriction near Smith-Cotton Junior High and utility work near Sedalia Middle School, both causing traffic to be more congested than usual. The signal light at Broadway and Tiger Pride boulevards also required some repairs from MoDOT to adjust the timing.
“We’re certainly available to any complaints that may arise (throughout the year),” Kottman said. “If a parent complains to the school then the school calls us and we try to work with the school about addressing complaints as they come up. We also work with First Student and any problems they may have along their route.”
Kottman had one final piece of simple advice for Sedalia drivers who travel through school zones — be patient.
“We just ask for patience from everybody — teachers, parents, other drivers who don’t have kids in school,” she said. “… A lot of people in a small space requires a lot of patience, and plan for extra time to pick up your kids. It’s not going to be a quick run in, pick up your kids and go. Plan for some extra time.”
Nicole Cooke can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1482 or @NicoleRCooke.