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Community Safety
Education news and issues in the Ozarks.

How to Safely Navigate the Back to School Traffic

Scott Harvey

With classes resuming this week around the region, school safety officials are asking drivers to prepare for an increase in pedestrian and vehicle traffic.

School zones can be dangerous places, says Chad McConnell, director of School Police Services for Nixa Public Schools, where classes started today.

“Like today, I was traveling in front of the high school, and I observed a skateboarder going right down the middle of Nicholas road. That’s just an accident waiting to happen.”

McConnell says road safety around schools must be a joint effort between both drivers and pedestrians.

“We have kids riding bicycles; we have kids on skateboards coming to and from school, along with the fact that we have such a congested area, with so many schools around Nixa.”

For drivers, he says it is simply a matter of staying alert and obeying school zone rules.

“We just plead for drivers to use more caution. Looking down at a phone or a radio, or changing the air conditioner, may take a second, but by the time you look up it may be too late to stop for what’s in front of you,” McConnell says.

This is especially important at crosswalks—Nixa has eight in the city, each with a crossing guard.

Additionally, he says to watch your speed. According to school zone rules, when the lights on the zone signs are flashing, the speed limit on the sign is in effect. The penalty for speeding is different as well:

“If a summons is issued for speed in a school zone, you can see that amount double, as compared to the normal cost of a speeding summons,” says McConnell.

In Springfield, where public school resumes Thursday, statistics show that pedestrians have a 95 percent chance of survival when struck by a car moving at 20 mph. But when a car is traveling 40 mph and hits a pedestrian, the chances for survival are just 20 percent.

Springfield’s Traffic Engineering division lists school walking route maps for all 37 SPS elementary schools. The maps, updated every year, shows students the areas that they can be effectively seen by drivers and maximizes the use of existing traffic control signals. The maps also encourage students to walk in groups, for greater safety and to consolidate street crossings.

Additionally, several Springfield schools have “kid friendly” crosswalks. These offer easy to use signals and signs explaining what to do.

Nixa’s Chad McConnell says parents should talk to their children about having consistent walking routes to school. Parents can ensure the route is safe and that the child does not get lost.

He adds that pedestrians must share the same attentiveness as drivers.

“They’re responsible for their actions, and they need to stay out of the way of motorists who may have the right of way,” McConnell says.

While using crosswalks he notes that you should not assume a driver sees you.

“Just because you come up to a crosswalk if you’re a pedestrian or a bicyclist doesn’t mean to just go across the road because you have the right of way—make sure the path is clear, don’t just dart into traffic.”

McConnell suggests making eye contact with a driver before you cross in front of him or her.  Wearing bright clothes can also increase your visibility to drivers.

McConnell adds that Nixa is fortunate to have all of their school campuses within a three mile radius. The city is in the process of adding sidewalks, and has created school walking groups in the past.

Many college and universities are preparing to welcome back thousands to school for the start of fall classes. In Springfield, courses at Missouri State University, Drury University and Ozarks Technical Community College get in full swing on Monday, while fall classes at Evangel University begin Aug. 26.