State police caution drivers as students head back to school

Police urge drivers to be aware of students and buses this week. (WFSB)

Back-to-school means a big change on the roads with school buses making their rounds to pick up and drop off children.

With thousands of children returning to schools this week, state troopers are urging parents to talk about traffic safety with their children and remind drivers to be patient.

"Pay attention, [rule] number one is pay attention," said Desirae Gomez, a parent in Waterbury. "This may be their first year taking the bus, or their first year in school.”

No matter where drivers go in the state, the traffic pattern is about to change because of pedestrians and buses, according to state police. Public schools across the state open between [Monday] morning and Wednesday, to start the fall semester.

Monday morning, the first wave of public school students got their start in cities like Waterbury and New Britain.

Troopers want parents to talk to their children about traffic and safety as they head back to class. They're asked to remind their children to wait for buses in a safe place away from the road and only cross after looking both ways.

Parents who spoke to Eyewitness News said that while they welcome the start of school, there are nervous moments when it comes to safety, especially walking to and from bus stops close to the street.

"It’s kind of worrisome especially with all the construction, they are doing a lot of it now, so there is a lot of obstacles now," Gomez said.

Of course, they should never talk with any stranger who may approach, much less get into the vehicle of someone they don't know.

Troopers are also putting an early warning out for drivers.

According to state law, drivers must slow for the yellow lights of a school bus, and stop when the red sign and flashing red lights appear.

If drivers happen to pass a bus with warning lights on, they could get a ticket for $465 for a first time offense.

Safety is a priority for officials at Smith Elementary School in New Britain.

Of Smith's more than 560 students, roughly half of them walk to school. Many have smartphones or other devices that can lead to them being distracted.

The school said it works with AAA for a safety program geared toward keeping students alert as they go to and from school. It also rewards the designated "safeties" with bright, fun safety patrol belts.

The principal at Smith said there are 26 safeties. They change throughout the year. The students learn more about safety through their gym teacher and pass it along.

"They're not necessarily telling the other kids what to do as much as showing leadership qualities and how to guide them," said Amy Parmenter of AAA.

Emily Rodriguez, 9, is a safety.

"It just means that I am a role model to the whole school and I help people," she said.

Emily said she's not scared to speak up.

"If I ever see someone walking with the phone, I will tell them be careful because if there's a car coming by, I don't want them to get hurt," Emily said.

Copyright 2016 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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