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Editorial: Schools open this week. Be alert for kids

Editorial: Schools open this week. Be alert for kids

If you do pass a bus, be prepared to pay
Editorial: Schools open this week. Be alert for kids
David Palacio.

Take a good look at this photo, the one accompanying this editorial.

That’s David Palacio.

Makayla Richart had met David at a homecoming dance when she was 15.

David saw her walking around outside and went up to her and told her how beautiful she looked. She’d been having a bad night, and he made her feel like someone cared.

His friends at Dixon High School in Onslow County, North Carolina, recalled his smile, his contagious laugh, his sweet, generous nature, and his prowess on the school track team.

David was just 16 years old when he was struck and killed by a driver the morning of March 27 of this year as he was getting on the school bus in front of his home.

The driver had attempted to pass the stopped bus when he struck the boy and ended his life, leaving his parents and little brother devastated and an entire community in mourning.

This could be your child. It could be your big brother. It could be your friend. It could happen in your town.

Starting Tuesday and continuing this week, summer is officially over for school children. And that means more kids and more buses on the roads.

Summer is also over for drivers, who’ve gotten used to a lot fewer vehicles on the road and a lot fewer kids crossing the street.

Children aren’t the most careful bunch.

They’re busy talking to their friends and playing on their phones and fooling around. Little kids are especially careless, and older kids are especially distracted.

Those children who walk to school and who take the bus to and from school every days depend on alert motorists for their safety. They’ll be crossing at crosswalks, but also not at crosswalks.

They’ll be crossing the street to get on the bus in the morning, and crossing again as they ramble off it in the afternoon.

Soon, the mornings will get darker.

By the end of this month, the sun will come up 22 minutes later than it did Friday, meaning those kids at the bus stop who were standing in the light this week will be standing in the dark three weeks from now.

They might not be thinking about their safety. So we have to.

The driver that killed David Palacio passed a stopped school bus.

A school bus is that giant yellow vehicle with the stop sign sticking out the side and the flashing red and yellow lights.

When you see the flashing yellow lights, that means the bus is about to slow down. Either stop or pass it slowly.

Once it’s stopped, no matter whether you’re behind the bus or traveling in the opposite lane, the law says you have to stop until the lights go off and the bus starts moving again — even if you’re on school property or on a divided or multi-lane highway.

Once they get off the bus, it’s likely some kids will be walking along the side of the street or crossing, so the demand for alertness doesn’t end when the bus starts moving again.

Each year, the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee estimates, about 50,000 drivers illegally pass a school bus each year, an astounding number.

If you do pass a bus, be prepared to pay. The first-time fine for illegally passing a school bus is $250 to $400, 5 points on your license and/or possibly 30 days in jail.

The maximum fine is $1,000 for three violations in three years.

If you are convicted of three of these violations in three years, your driver's license will be revoked for a minimum of six months.

If you strike and injure or kill a child, criminal charges can be filed and you could go to prison.

And you’ll have to live with the guilt of the devastation you’ve caused.

The school year is starting again.

Let’s do our part to make it a safe one.

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