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Safety Office: School in session, drive safely

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- School is in session and fall is coming.

The 460th Space Wing Safety Office asks drivers to know the laws and be on the lookout for children and pedestrians.

Chris Smith, a Safety Office ground safety technician, said the best things drivers can do to be safe is to drive defensively and put away or ignore their distractions.

"Always look and scan and anticipate what might happen. So, if you see a school bus - where there's a school bus, there's probably going to be kids. If you're in a residential area with houses, there's going to be kids and, especially around those times of day, that could be darting in and out of traffic," he said. "So drive defensively, scanning and looking ahead of you to see what's out there and how you could avoid something if it happens, and think about what you can do.

"The second one would be, don't drive distracted. Don't use your cell phone, don't play with the radio," said Mr. Smith. "If you've got kids in the back, don't turn around trying to correct them for whatever. If you need to do that, pull over and do it. No eating, drinking. Focus on driving - especially if you're in a residential area around kids, school busses - that sort of thing. It's even more important."

While getting where you're going is important, doing it safely is the most important part of traveling and Mr. Smith said when the weather changes this fall, it's a good idea to get your car ready and find a place to practice driving in icy and snowy conditions.

"It's not so much the hours of light and visibility, but here in the fall, it becomes the icy and the snowy conditions. My best recommendation is number one; make sure your car is prepared. So if you've got slick tires, make sure you've got good tires on there. If you need to get snow studded tires, get those. If you need to get chains, get those. Whatever you need, make sure you get it taken care of," said Mr. Smith. "And secondly, if you're not familiar or experienced driving in snowy and icy conditions, and it doesn't have to be a lot of ice or a lot of snow to make the roads slick, go practice. Find a parking lot where there are no light poles or anything to hit and just go practice on that. See how the car feels when it's on ice or it's on snow. Don't let the first time you experience it be when you're actually on the road, in traffic or in a neighborhood with kids around. Go out in an isolated area and practice driving in the ice and snow so you can get used to it - especially if you're not from here or haven't driven in it a lot."

Mr. Smith said the driving laws on-base are the same as off-base except speed limits on base and in housing are reduced.

"It's 25 entering housing, and all the side streets are 15 miles an hour," he said. "There are designated bus stops in base housing. The streets are extremely wide where the buses stop and that allows them lots of room. We actually did go over there just recently to investigate some issues where traffic was getting a little backed up when the busses were stopping."

Stopping when students are loading or unloading from a school bus should be a given, but when Mr. Smith and his partner were responding to a call about traffic congestion in housing due to the bus stop locations, they witnessed a driver roll up, stop and slowly drive past the bus as children were loading and the flashing stop sign was out.

"The explanation was that they're new here and didn't know the rules," he said. "To my knowledge, every state in the country has the same rules in regards to busses. When they're stopped with flashing lights and the yellow and red sign, you must stop for the bus, so ignorance is not an excuse. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse. If you're driving in a state, you need to know the laws of that state."

While pedestrians always have the right of way, it is both the driver's and the pedestrian's responsibility to travel with caution. In the event of an accident, the pedestrian would suffer the majority of injuries, so using cross walks and not darting out into traffic are a must.

Mr. Smith said, in addition to looking both ways and using caution on the roads and sidewalks, being seen is the best thing a pedestrian can do to stay safe.

"Really, you want to use the crosswalk if you can find a crosswalk because that's a designated crossing area," he said. "If you're going to be walking around, or it's going to be dark when you get home, or you're getting off the bus or even walking on the streets, wear something reflective or highly visible so that traffic can see you and it's easier to be seen."

Be seen, be safe and stay accident-free.
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