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Higdon: Back-to-school tips will mean a safer return to school for parents, children

By JIMMY HIGDON
14th District State Senator

Sunday, Aug. 4, 2019 — It’s a busy time of year for Kentucky families as students get back into the routine of school and the many after-school activities. Did you know there are more than 650,000 kids in preschool through 12th grade at Kentucky’s 4,597 public and private schools?

SEN. JIMMY HIGDON

Each August, I like to remind readers of Kentucky broadcasting legend J.T. Whitlock’s favorite message this time of year: “Drive slow and let them grow!” He wanted drivers to be cautious of our young children walking to and from school, hopping on and off buses, or just waiting for their friends or family to pick them up.

This message couldn’t be more relevant today since the advent of mobile phones. Did you know driving while using a mobile phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent? In fact, driver distraction is the leading factor in most crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Nearly 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involve some form of distraction within three seconds before the event.

That’s why the Kentucky General Assembly took action in 2010 with the passage of House Bill 415. The measure bans texting for drivers of all ages while the vehicle is in motion. For drivers under 18, no use of personal communication devices is allowed while the vehicle is in motion. Most likely, legislation will be introduced next session to further restrict the use of mobile phones while driving.

Although many – if not most – drivers hesitate to admit it, they use their smartphones while behind the wheel. A simple solution to avoid the temptation is to turn off the ringer, disable text alerts and leave mobile phones in the glove compartment or console before starting the engine.

For those who have more trouble parting ways with their phone while driving, many apps discourage drivers from using a phone when behind the wheel. Available for both iOS and Android, safe-driving apps can block calls and texts, track miles and send parents notifications when distracted driving is detected. The apps can even reward distraction-free driving.

Drivers also need to pay extra attention to school buses. Every school day in Kentucky, 9,822 buses transport over 385,000 students. Kentucky law states if any school bus is stopped to load or unload children, with the stop arm and signal lights activated, the driver of a car approaching from any direction shall stop and not proceed. The only exception is for drivers approaching a stopped bus from the opposite direction upon a highway of four or more lanes.

To help keep school bus riders safe, the Kentucky Education Department has come up with these great safety tips for parents and students:

  • Arrive five minutes before the bus is scheduled to stop.
  • Have all items in a student’s book bag before they leave home so they do not drop anything.
  • Wait at the bus stop in a safe place, 10 feet to 12 feet away from the road.
  • Keep electronic equipment packed away as they prepare to board.
  • Never use an electronic device or wear earbuds when walking to the bus or when getting on or off the bus.
  • Return home to get help or phone for assistance if they miss the bus.
  • Never chase after the bus.
  • Never walk to another bus stop.
  • Never drive your child to another bus stop without permission. The bus driver is not expecting them and your child may not be seen and can be injured.

These and other common-sense measures can go a long way in ensuring students, teachers, school staff and parents have a great year. With each new school year come opportunities and chances to achieve new levels of learning and experiences. In closing, I would like to wish all students a safe and successful school year. I would also like to thank teachers and school staff for their dedication to Kentucky students.

Sen. Jimmy Higdon, R-Lebanon, represents the 14th District that encompasses Casey, Marion, Nelson and Spencer counties as well a portion of Jefferson County including Fern Creek and Jeffersontown. He can be reached by calling his office in Frankfort at 502-564-8100, his home in Lebanon at 270-692-6945 or emailing him at senatorhigdon@gmail.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @SenatorJimmy.

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