VAN BUREN (KFSM) — Several school districts in our area will start school this week, and police are urging drivers to use extra caution when driving in school zones.
With school returning, more children will be out and about, and more school buses and cars will be on the road.
Sgt. Jonathan Wear spoke with 5NEWS about the importance of using caution in school zones and around school buses.
Wear said police place a high priority on school zone safety, watching particularly for speeders, those on cellphones and those who threaten the safety of school buses and the students getting on and off those buses.
This year, new laws are in effect for cellphone usage in school zones. Cellphones can only be used hands free in school zones in an emergency, otherwise they cannot be used. That applies to construction zones, as well.
"When school is in session, when kids are actually present at the school, you cannot use a handheld cellphone device anywhere in the school zone," Wear said.
Wear said the new law applies to all drivers of any age. Outside of school zones, those 18-20 years of age can only use cellphones hands free, and those younger than 18 cannot use a cellphone at all while operating a motor vehicle.
The penalty for using a cellphone by hand in a school zone is $25-250 plus court costs and fees. That's just for the first offense.
"Subsequent offenses will raise that amount, so it can get pretty expensive," Wear said.
Wear said another priority is school bus safety.
Wear said drivers need to watch for yellow and red flashing lights on buses, which signal that a bus is slowing or stopping to pick up or drop off students.
The yellow lights indicate the bus is slowing for a stop. The red lights and the stop sign that comes out indicates students are getting on or off the bus and may be crossing the road in front of the bus.
"You can't pass a school bus in either direction whenever that sign is out," Wear said.
Drivers are also asked to watch for children walking or biking in crosswalks.
For a complete list of school start dates, click here.