Crossing guards help keep kids safe as they go back to school

Jack Dyer got hit by a car when he was 9 years old.

"I didn't really get hurt, but it knocked me about eight or nine feet," he said. "I remembered it for a long time. It scared the tar out of me."

Now he spends his afternoons at Fremont Elementary School making sure that other kids are safe while crossing the street.

"Somebody better look after the little ones," Dyer said. "They're about a third of the size of us adults."

Dyer is one of nearly 20 crossing guards hired by the Carson City School District to help students cross the street while going to and from school.

"We're one of the only districts that I know of that hires adult crossing guards," said Mike Mitchell, director of operations for the school district. "They provide a really valuable control system."

The Automobile Association of America launched its 66th annual "School's Open, Drive Carefully," campaign this month to remind motorists to slow down in and around school zones.

Young children can't see or hear as well as older children or adults.

"All drivers, not just parents, need to know about these differences," said Merry Banks, manager of AAA's Traffic Safety Department. "It's up to the drivers to protect the children because the children can't protect themselves."

Nationally, children between the ages of 5 and 15 make up 29 percent of people killed or injured in pedestrian traffic collisions yet are only 15 percent of the population.

In 1998, 11 children between 5 and 15 were injured in pedestrian car accidents in Carson City. However, there were no fatalities.

Mitchell said the district works to make travel to and from school safer. Nearly 40 percent of Carson City's students ride the bus to and from school.

"We bus a lot of kids which helps to cut down on pedestrian accidents," Mitchell said. "It's a good service as long as we can afford it."

For those who do walk, crossing guard Sandy Digangi, said drivers need to be aware of them.

"There's been a couple of times that there's been some near misses," she said of her five years experience. "Some people just don't pay attention."

Not paying attention is not only dangerous but it is more costly in a school zone. While the normal rate is $3 per mile per hour exceeding the speed limit, the rate doubles to $6 in a school zone.

Caitlin Berkich, a third-grader at Fremont, appreciates the service that the crossing guards provide.

"People would get run over if she wasn't here," Caitlin said.

Nationwide, AAA expects to distribute nearly 2 million bumper stickers to schools, law enforcement agencies and local AAA offices to remind motorists that school's open and to drive carefully.

Kids go back to school:

- All elementary schools are in session on Wednesday. Fremont Elementary School is year around.

- Both middle schools, Carson High School and its satellites are in session today.

AAA safety advice to motorists:

- Slow down around schools and residential areas. The speed limit in school zones is 15 mph.

- Watch for children. They may be distracted and forget to look for cars.

- Look for clues that children may be in the area: safety patrols, crossing guards, bikes, school buses, and school zone signs.

- Remember that drivers, whether behind a school bus or approaching it on the same street from the opposite direction, must come to a complete stop and wait while the red lights are flashing.

- Drive with extra caution in bad weather or when the sun might impede vision.

AAA safety advice to parents:

- Do not double park, stop in crosswalks or block visibility for children and other motorists.

- Have all children exit from the curbside doors.

- Walk the route to school several times with children before school starts.

- Point out possible traffic hazards. Teach and practice safe walking habits and find the safest walking route.


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