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Keep an eye out for kids heading to school

As a new school year begins, students will be joining the rush, on foot, by bus and in cars - especially the morning rush hour. It's important for motorists, parents and children to dust off their back-to-school traffic safety routines.

Motorists in particular need to watch out for the safety of children on foot and bicycle, to slow down to 20 miles per hour in school zones and to yield to crossing guards.

Drivers may notice differences in school zones this fall. Some signs have changed under House Bill 2840 from the 2005 Legislature. Oregon law now requires drivers to slow to 20 mph in school zones when yellow lights are flashing, during the hours that signs indicate or, if no specific hours are posted, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on days when school is in session.

Driving just five miles per hour above the 20 mph speed limit increases the risk of hitting a child and increases the severity of the injury when a vehicle strikes a child, officials say.

The following back-to-school safety tips for drivers, parents and students are Oregon laws:

Drivers should:

n Follow the posted speed limit, and slow to 20 miles per hour when required in school zones.

n Yield to pedestrians crossing the street. Stop and remain stopped until the pedestrian has crossed not only your lane but also the adjacent lane.

n Never pass a vehicle that has stopped at the crosswalk. It may be waiting for a pedestrian to cross.

n In a school zone crosswalk with a crossing guard, wait until the guard has left the roadway.

Under Oregon law, a crosswalk exists at any intersection, even if unmarked, unless signs indicate that the crosswalk is closed.

n Do not pass a school bus when its red lights are flashing, even if it is on the other side of the street. The only exception is when the bus is on the other side of a physical barrier or median running between opposing lanes of traffic.

n Cross the street only at crosswalks, not between intersections, and never run into the street from between parked cars or other obstacles that block a driver's view. Before crossing a street, wait for a walk signal or for a crossing guard to tell you that it is okay to cross, and for vehicles to stop.

n Make eye contact with drivers to make sure they see you.

n Wear light-colored clothing or place reflectors on backpacks to improve visibility to drivers.

Additional information is available at Oregon Bike+Walk to School at www.walknbike.org.