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Back-to-school means extra traffic caution necessary

F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. -- Most of you reading this will think of today with a sense of relief that you have made it through yet another week of short-notice tasks, assigned duties and the normal goings-on of everyday, military life. If you are anything like me, I am sure you are looking forward to the weekend; a respite from work and an opportunity to decompress. Spending time with loved ones and friends enjoying local area attractions, your favorite outdoor areas and stores are among the planned events.

However, for those with school-aged children, from kindergarteners to high school students, and more importantly for the students themselves, today marks the beginning of the end of summer vacation.

Aug. 26 is the first day of school in Laramie County. All of us need to be aware of what the early weeks of the "back to school" season brings, regardless of whether or not you have school-aged children. There will be school buses on the roads, kids walking, biking and skateboarding on the sidewalks and streets, and parents in a mad dash to get their kids where they need to be before the first period bell sounds. For those of us who will be on the road in the mornings and afternoons, be mindful of your surroundings - crosswalks, school zones, speed limits and of course school buses.

Speed limits in school zones drop to 20 miles per hour. While many school zones are marked by flashing yellow lights, this is not the case in all areas. Traditionally, law enforcement will be present and will stop motorists who choose to disobey the law.

Crosswalks are often well marked, but not all are co-located with a traffic-control signal. As you approach a crosswalk, be aware of the potential for a child to dart across it. In Wyoming, when traffic control signals are not in place or not in operation, whether at a school or not, the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way by slowing down or stopping for any pedestrian within or entering a crosswalk at either side of the roadway. Whenever any vehicle is stopped at a crosswalk to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway, the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass the stopped vehicle.

It is illegal in Wyoming to pass a school bus while it is stopped letting kids off and on. When a school bus is stopped with its lights flashing, traffic coming from both directions is required to stop unless the road is divided by a barrier. Failure to do so not only puts children in jeopardy, but can land the offender in court with a hefty fine.

For people with children, remind them of the importance of focusing on their surroundings and to watch out for those who may not be watching out for them.

Here are a few things you should remind your children of every morning before they head out:
· Look both ways before crossing the street
· Make eye contact with drivers so you know they see you
· Walk on the sidewalks where available
· Use cross-walks where available

Be mindful of the things you can control. Leave for work a little earlier or adjust your normal route to avoid additional congestion on the road and the inevitable stop-to-stop wait that will occur if you get stuck behind a school bus. Keep an eye out for children who may not be focusing as much attention on their surroundings as they should. These boys and girls are the future of our nation and our Air Force.