Thursday, September 1, 2011

News Advisory: Back to School Safety Tips - Cell Phones and Driving DON’T Mix

Cell Phones and Driving DON’T Mix
Sign off before you drop off and hang up before you pick up

Rockville - - - Children across the region are heading back to school and Fire Chief Richie Bowers is asking drivers to exercise extra caution as the school year begins. “With schools back in session, drivers should take extra time to be on the look-out for kids at intersections and in roadways,”said Chief Bowers. “Additionally, as a matter of safety and compliance with laws, drivers are reminded to put their cell phones down and refrain from talking or texting while driving.”

For Drivers

• Reduce any distractions inside your car so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings. Put down your phone and don’t talk or text while driving.

• All passengers should wear a seat belt and/or an age and size-appropriate car safety seat or booster seat.

• All children younger than 13 years of age should ride in the back seat of vehicles. If you must drive more children than can fit in the back seat (i.e., for example, when carpooling) move the front-seat passenger’s seat as far back as possible.

• Be watchful for bus riders. For many children this may be the first time they have ridden a bus.

• Exercise extra caution as you head out to work and be on the watch for school buses. Many bus routes or schedules change each year, and you may encounter a school bus where you have never seen one before.

• School Zones: Slow down and be especially alert in residential neighborhoods and around schools.

• Slow down: Be alert to children as you back out of your driveway or exit your garage.

• Safety on the road is especially important for “new” drivers that may be driving to school for the first time.

Reminders for Parents and Children

• Be realistic about your child’s pedestrian skills. Children are not always aware of their surroundings and may dart into traffic assuming drivers will see and stop for them. Carefully consider whether your child is ready to walk to school or wait for the bus without adult supervision.

• Children should cross the street with an adult until they are at least 10 years old.

• Always cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks.

• Bus riders need to make sure they always walk in front of the bus where the driver can see them.

• Always look both ways before crossing the street and never enter streets from between parked cars or from behind shrubbery.

• If traveling to school by bike, obey the rules of the road and wear a helmet! Not only is it the smart thing to do, it is also the law in Maryland.

• Be a good neighbor. Respect private property and always be on your best behavior while waiting for the bus.

School Bus Safety – What Motorists Should Know

All drivers need to stop when the lights on school buses are flashing. Drivers should be aware Maryland law states that vehicles must come to a complete stop on both sides of the street if there is no physical divider or barrier. Drivers who pass the bus before all lights have ceased flashing may face the following consequences:

- Drivers who pass school buses while the lights are flashing will receive a citation that carries a maximum fine of $570 and a 3-point penalty.

- Drivers who stop but then proceed while the lights are flashing will receive a citation that carries a maximum fine of $570 and a 2-point penalty.

Home Alone

Parents need to carefully consider the pros and cons of having a child stay home alone before/after school. Be familiar with laws and child protective policies in your jurisdiction and, because children mature at different rates, your decision should not be based on age alone. Children should master important safety skills before staying home alone. Be sure to make and practice a home fire escape plan that includes a designated “safe” area outside where everyone will meet if the smoke alarm sounds, ensure they know when and how to call 9-1-1 in an emergency and unattended cooking continues to be the leading cause of home fires in Montgomery County. Firefighters strongly recommend having after school snacks on hand that do not require cooking and that children only use kitchen appliances while under close adult supervision. Additional safety tips can be found on our website at For the law in Maryland:

Section 5-801 provides:

(a) A person who is charged with the care of a child under the age of 8 years may not allow the child to be locked or confirmed in a dwelling, building, enclosure or motor vehicle while the person charged is absent and the dwelling, building, enclosure or motor vehicle is out of the sight of the person charged unless the person charged provides a reliable person at least 13 years old to remain with the child to protect the child.

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