Putnam County Sheriff Donald B. Smith reminds motorists in the county to exercise extra care during the morning and afternoon commutes as area schools open for the new academic year.
“With summer drawing to its unofficial close and schools reopening, drivers have to be alert for stopped school buses, children crossing the streets, groups of children and parents congregating at bus stops and extra traffic congestion around school,” said Putnam County Sheriff Donald B. Smith. “Being safety-conscious while driving is certainly the required mindset to have every day of the year,” Smith said. “But we have to be especially careful at this time of year, to protect our most precious treasures — our children.”
Drivers should plan ahead to allot extra time for commutes or for travel during the morning and afternoon hours, making allowances for school buses picking up and discharging children along local roads. Planning extra travel time will avoid feeling rushed — which can lead to driving mistakes — and will make for a more relaxing and safer trip.
The sheriff reminds all motorists that it is not only extremely dangerous but also against the law to pass a stopped school bus from either direction, adding that even after a school bus turns off its red flashing lights and pulls away from a stop, drivers should watch out for children who may dart across the street against traffic.
Motorists operating motor vehicles in villages like Brewster, Cold Spring and Nelsonville and Hamlets such as Carmel and Mahopac and other high traffic areas, must be particularly vigilant watching for youngsters darting out from behind parked cars, hurrying to get to the bus stop or crossing the street on the way to school.
According to published reports, it is estimated that there are as many as 50,000 instances of motorists passing stopped school buses across the state on any given day. As an added reminder, law enforcement agencies are posting road signs furnished by the Automobile Association of America (“AAA”) that read: “School’s Open — Drive Carefully.”
Sheriff Smith has indicated that he has asked deputies to be on the lookout for cars passing stopped school buses. He has also ordered that they especially monitor bus stops along Routes 9 and 9D in Philipstown, where the Garrison and Haldane School Districts have children picked up and discharged during school days. Police patrols will also be stepping up enforcement of speed limits and seatbelt usage on roads near schools.