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The Kids Are Back In School

The kids are headed back school and we are preparing to get back into our school day routines of getting them to school, picking them up, getting to sports, dance, karate, cheer, etc.  I want everyone from moms and dads, to all the kids riding their bikes, and walking to and from school, to all our high school drivers, to take a minute and think about getting to and from school safely.  Not only your safety, but everyone’s safety around you.

During the first few days of school it is not uncommon for us to respond to traffic collisions involving not only cars, but pedestrians, bicycles, and kids on skateboards.  We have a big goal this year;

Let’s not have a single one of those types of events this school year.

How do we collectively accomplish this goal as a community?  It is my belief that the most important things you can do to help us accomplish this goal are;

  1. Leave a little earlier
  2. Slow down
  3. Be willing to park your car a little ways from school and walk the last few hundred feet to school if possible

When we speak publicly to groups about traffic issues, or conduct drivers training at the high school, we always make these same suggestions and receive such a favorable response from those that try one or all of them.

Also, always, always, always keep your eyes open for the crossing guards and what they are doing.  They have a much better eye on everything that is going on at their crosswalk and will help you get into and out of the school area safely.

I have been driving in and around school traffic in this area since 1989 and have found the absolute best way to get in and out of any school in the district is to arrive about 20-30 minutes before school starts, and pick up about 15-20 minutes after school lets out.  I know this is not feasible for everyone due to multiple stops with children in different schools etc.  But if you can flex your schedule a little to avoid arriving in the area at peak times you can save yourself a lot of time, grief, and stress.

Ok mom and dad, give this article to your student and let them take it from here.

Murrieta students, we talked about what mom and dad can do to help us accomplish our goal of not having an accident while going to or from school.  Now let’s talk about you walking or riding your bike to school.

When we are walking we should be on the sidewalk.  Never cross the street mid-block.  Are you listening Elementary and Middle School students???  We have warned students repeatedly year after year and will be writing tickets this year for this dangerous activity.  Drivers in cars are not looking for you mid-block.  Shivela students crossing Cal Oaks and Avaxat students crossing Hancock and Las Brisas have resulted in citations issued and some serious accidents involving pedestrian’s students jaywalking.  Go to the end of the street and cross at a cross walk, stop sign or traffic signal.  Use the help of a crossing guard if available.  They are there for you and do a great job.

How about all you riding bicycles??  Did you know the California Vehicle Code, which covers all the laws of the road; give you as a bicyclist all the rights of a driver in a vehicle??  Guess what though??  The same laws also say that along with those rights, a bicyclist is also subject to all laws that apply to a driver of a motor vehicle.  There are certain laws, which by their nature, could only apply to motor vehicles. In those cases, the Vehicle Code does not apply to bicycles.  For the most part, a bicycle operator must follow the same rules of the road that a driver of a motor vehicle must follow.

Here are some things to remember when riding a bicycle.  Ride as close to the right hand edge of the road as possible, or in a bicycle lane if moving slower than the flow of traffic.  You must always ride with traffic, and when approaching an intersection may leave the right hand edge of the road or bicycle lane to enter the left turn pocket only when you can do so with reasonable safety.  Motor vehicles do not have to do any special yielding to bicycles because the rules of the road apply equally to both.  So be careful if you attempt to do this type of maneuver.  Cars outweigh you by a considerable amount and your body will always be the loser if you are involved in an accident with a motor vehicle regardless of who was at fault.  We suggest that it is much safer for you to get off your bike and cross the street at a traffic signal or stop light with a crosswalk.

All striping and roadway signs apply to the bicyclist as they do motor vehicles operators.  You can be cited by a police officer for committing a Vehicle Code infraction on a bicycle.  Riding a bicycle under the influence of alcohol or drugs will get you arrested for DUI the same as if you were driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  Bicycles should never be ridden on the sidewalks.  Sidewalks are for pedestrians only.

If you are under 18 years of age, you must wear a bicycle helmet at all times you are riding a bicycle.  Same goes for skateboards.  I stop and talk to many juveniles during the day that are not wearing their helmets and sometimes issue a citation for this violation that has an associated fine of about $100.00.  We see a lot of these violations in the morning hours when students are going to school.  The most common excuse for not wearing the helmet is that it will mess up their hair.  So far, I have been unable to find any exclusion in the Vehicle Code for not wearing your helmet if it messes up your hair.  So wear those helmets just like we do everyday we operate our police motorcycles.

Equipment required by the Vehicle Code on a bicycle consists of the obvious like a brake, seat, handle bars etc.  If operating at night there must be a white light attached to the rider or bike that shines to the front and can be seen 300 feet away.  A red reflector or light must be attached to the rider or bike that can be seen 500 feet to the rear.  White or yellow reflectors are required to be on the pedals visible 200 feet to the front and rear, and the bike must have a white or yellow reflector to the forward and to the rear of the center of the bike.  These reflectors are usually mounted in the spokes.

When we investigate traffic collisions with bicycles, the operator of the motor vehicle usually tells us they never saw the bicyclist.  Keep that in mind as you pedal about your city.  Use common sense when it comes to sharing the road with motor vehicles and you should enjoy a safe and fun school year of bicycling.

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