HYATTSVILLE, Md. — State highway officials, law enforcement authorities, road safety advocates and schoolkids joined together Wednesday for a back-to-school safety message.
They gathered outside Ridgecrest Elementary School in Hyattsville, where five members of the school’s AAA safety patrol shouted out advice to fellow classmates returning to class:
“Look up! Look out! Stay alert. Use crosswalks.”
And to drivers, the kids, clad in yellow safety patrol belts and badges, shouted: “Look up! Look out! Stay alert. Stop for pedestrians. Stop for school buses.”
Nearly 160,000 Montgomery County Public Schools students return to classes Sept. 5. More than 130,000 students return to Prince George’s County Public Schools Sept. 6.
“The safety of these students, our youngest commuters, is in our hands,” said Anyesha Mookherjee, deputy director of the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration.
Distracted driving — including texting while driving — is dangerous, safety officials reminded the public. That safety risk increases when classes resume, as children scamper through neighborhoods, near bus stops and in school zones.
“Drivers, please park your phones,” Mookherjee said.
John Townsend, manager of public and government affairs at AAA Mid-Atlantic, urged drivers to slow down.
“It behooves all of us to … heed school buses that are loading and unloading children,” Townsend said.
The back-to-school safety campaign slogan “Look Up, Look Out” applies not only to drivers but also to pedestrians.
“For pedestrians, it means watch and stay alert, avoid distractions, pull out the earphones, use crosswalks, push pedestrian buttons and wait for the walk signal before crossing. See and be seen. This means wearing light, bright clothing, especially at night,” Mookherjee said.
“For drivers, it means staying on the lookout for pedestrians, paying attention with eyes on the road and hands on the wheel, and stop for pedestrians — especially when turning.”
Police are promising stepped-up enforcement across the county, in school zones and around school buses. Drivers in both directions are required to stop when a school bus stops, its red lights are flashing and its stop sign flap is deployed.
“The officers will be much more vigilant,” warned Prince George’s police Cpl. Chris Lord, of the department’s special operations division.
“We’ll have it throughout the entire county. … We’ll be looking for the texting and driving. We’ll be looking for aggressive driving. We’ll pretty much make sure that we target anyone who’s not paying attention.”
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