Track season is over and hurricane season is beginning.
Overnight camping has become a test of how cold and damp you can be by morning. Those once-radiant backyard gardens are looking a little ratty.
That’s fall in the Northeast. It’s a little depressing, but it’s expected.
What might not be expected is coming around a turn on the way to work today or the next day and suddenly encountering a group of little kids waiting by the side of the road for a school bus in the dull fog of morning.
Or running up on a school bus suddenly stopped in the middle of the road. Or noticing that crosswalk that you never noticed before filled with kids making their way across the street. Or remembering the speed limit drops suddenly in front of schools.
It’s time to snap out of the summer driving funk and start paying closer attention to what’s going on around you these days, as the most unexpected sign of fall is the sudden appearance of children all over the place where they haven’t been for the last couple months.
Slow it down, open your eyes, and be mindful that a child’s backpack is no protection from your speeding vehicle.
Remember that the 15 mph speed limit in a school zone is there for a reason, and that at that speed, your car practically has to come to a stop. Get used to it again. The police already are.
Those school buses with the flashing lights are picking up or dropping off children, who really aren’t that mindful of their safety.
From today forward, that’s your job.
This year, the state introduced a new tool to help cut down on the 250 drivers who regularly pass stopped school buses every single day in New York.
Municipalities are now authorized to have cameras installed on the stop arms of school buses to catch drivers who pass them illegally.
While it’s not in place in many school districts now, just the potential of being caught on camera and subject to a fine should incentivize drivers to wait until a bus is moving again before going around it. You don’t have to be patient.
But you still have to wait.
It’s not only the law. You stopping could save lives. Do you really want to be the driver who runs over a child?
Off the safety beat for a second, the school year is also when school boards crank back up onto full gear, making decisions not only about the education of our children, but about building projects and spending initiatives that directly affect the taxes you pay.
School taxes make up the biggest chunk of your property tax bill, about 50-60 percent or more.
So whether you care about education or about your pocketbook, or both, now’s a good time to pay attention to the activities of your local school board.
Maybe attend a meeting, or check out the agenda online to see if they’re doing anything of interest to you.
The fall is also a chance for you to get involved in your school.
Sure, maybe you don’t want to volunteer at PTA bake sales, especially if you’ve been there done that with your own brood.
But schools need coaches and referees and bus drivers (there’s almost always a shortage) and crossing guards and classroom aides. If you’ve got time, this is when to get involved.
Fall brings many things, some welcome, some not so welcome.
It also brings the start of school.
Do your best to make it a safe and happy school year for all.