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OVERWEG: Practice safe driving as school year starts

With school starting in the near future, I would like to remind drivers of several driving-related safety issues.

The first area of concern is stop signs. South Dakota law states that a driver must come to a complete stop at a stop sign. We too often cite drivers who come to a stop sign, slow down and then proceed through the stop sign without stopping. Unfortunately, this results in accidents or near misses all too often. I would remind all drivers to come to a complete stop at all stop signs before proceeding through the intersection in a safe manner.

The next area of concern involves drivers' actions when they approach a crossing guard. When a crossing guard is standing in the roadway holding out a stop sign, all vehicles that approach the crossing guard must come to a complete stop and must remain stopped until the crossing guard puts down the stop sign and returns to the curb. Occasionally, we will have a driver that proceeds through the crosswalk, after coming to a complete stop, when the kids have not made it to the curb and the crossing guard is still standing in the street displaying the stop sign. This is a violation and will oftentimes result in a citation, due to the fact the crossing guards are trained to record the license plate numbers and report all violators to the police.

The next area of concern addresses established crosswalks that may or may not be manned by a crossing guard. These established crosswalks are clearly marked on the roadway and have a sign 150 feet in front of the crosswalk giving drivers an advanced warning. When a pedestrian enters the crosswalk, traffic must yield to the pedestrian until the pedestrian reaches the other side of the roadway. These crosswalks are placed in areas that can have high pedestrian numbers at certain times of the day. Drivers should be alert when approaching all established crosswalks. Pedestrians should check both directions to verify that oncoming traffic is yielding to them prior to crossing the street.

The next area of concern involves a driver's responsibility when approaching a stopped bus with flashing red lights and extended stop sign on any two-lane highway or roadway. When a driver approaches a bus with the flashing red lights and extended stop sign, they are required to come to a complete stop no closer than 15 feet from the bus. This applies to vehicles approaching from the front and the rear of the bus. The driver must remain stopped until the red lights have been turned off and the stop sign is no longer extended. Drivers should be very alert when approaching a bus with yellow flashing lights as this is an indicator that the bus driver may be turning on the red flashing lights or there may be kids in the area that are being unloaded curb side. Again, most violations will result in the driver being cited into court because the bus drivers are trained to record license plate numbers and report all violators to the police.

When school starts, the school speed zones will again go into effect. Most school speed zones are marked with yellow flashing lights, but all of them are marked with a reduced speed zone sign indicating 15 mph when children are present. When entering a school zone, all drivers should be on high alert and be ready to stop their vehicle if a child would run into the street. Officers will work the speed zones throughout the school year and citations will be issued to violators.

The last area of concern focuses on parking areas around the schools. Make sure to abide by the wording on the signs that are in the vicinity of the schools. Each school has its own parking restrictions that are specific to that school. There are many different parking restrictions around the schools -- some areas have 10-minute parking, some have established drop-off areas only with no unattended vehicles allowed, and some have restricted parking for staff only. Please become familiar with the parking restrictions at the school you frequent. As a reminder, there is no double parking allowed anywhere in the city of Mitchell; this includes all streets in front of schools. Officers will monitor these areas throughout the school year and parking tickets will be issued to violators.

All these laws I referred to are designed to provide safety to our children, other drivers and pedestrians. As another school year begins, please allow extra travel time, slow down and help us keep our city safe.

-Lyndon Overweg is chief of the Mitchell Police Department.