Wytheville, Va. – Wednesday, August 10th marks the first day of the 2016-17 school year for children in Wythe County and the county’s board of supervisors is encouraging motorists to exercise caution during their morning and evening commutes.

County officials say they will be making roadside safety awareness a top priority in the opening days of the school year in an effort to curb startling statistics – studies by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reveal that in the United States, approximately 4,735 pedestrians are killed in traffic crashes each year. This averages to one crash-related pedestrian death every 2 hours.

Even more sobering is the fact that in 2013, one in every five children under the age of 14 who were killed in traffic crashes were pedestrians.

“The first few days of school are always an exciting time for families and educators; however, they are also the most dangerous, as over the summer, motorists have gotten out of the habit of watching for school busses and children waiting beside the road at bus stops,” said Tim Reeves, chairman of the Wythe County Board of Supervisors.

“As a Board, we want to use our platform to encourage all motorists to be on the lookout for children who may be waiting beside the road for the morning school bus – as well as remind parents to take the necessary time to teach their children the basic safety guidelines of pedestrian and school bus-stop safety.”

According to highway safety experts, parents should stress the following safety tips to their children while waiting at bus stops:
• Always walk to the bus stop. Never run.
• Always go to the bus stop about five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive.
• While at the bus stop, wait in a safe place away from the road. Do not run and play while waiting.
• Never speak to strangers at the bus stop and never get into the car with a stranger.
• Wait for the bus to arrive, watch for red flashing lights and the stop sign to be extended, and cross only when all traffic has stopped. Look left, right, and left again before crossing.

When exiting the bus, children should:
• When getting off the bus, children should walk (not run) three additional steps away from the door. Stay away from the bus wheels and watch out for moving cars!
• Once children are off the bus, they should go straight home so an adult will know where they are.
• If they leave something on the bus, they should never return to the bus to get it. The driver may not see them come back and they may begin moving the bus. (On average, 10 children are killed each year by being struck by the school bus itself.)
• If a child drops something near the bus, they should tell the bus driver before attempting to pick it up… If the driver does not hear them, they should step away from the bus and never go into a road to retrieve anything – no item is worth a child’s life.

School buses remain as the safest mode of transportation to and from school in the United States – approximately 450,000 public school buses travel approximately 4.3 billion miles to transport 23.5 million children to and from school and school-related activities each year.

Wythe County officials are hoping for another safe school year and are encouraging parents, motorists and staff to do their part in making sure children are protected while waiting for the morning school bus.

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