The bells will soon be ringing as Aiken County students head back to school. But in addition to packing book bags, lunches and other preparations for the new year, local authorities are urging motorists to be prepared for increased traffic on the roadways.

School season safety tips

What parents need to know

• Most young children are injured near their home or their own street between 3 and 6 p.m.

• Most crashes involving young children occur in fair and warm weather.

• Young children should not be allowed to cross the street alone. Teach them who can help them cross the street safely.

• When you cross a street with your child, always stop at the curb, look left-right-left for traffic in all directions, cross when it is clear and keep looking for vehicles as you cross.

• As you both safely cross the street together, praise your child for copying your safe actions and words.

What motorists need to know

• It is difficult for children to see motorists or for motorists to see children. Because a child’s peripheral vision is about one-third narrower than an adult’s, children can’t see a motorist approaching them from the right or left as quickly as an adult can.

• Children also have difficulty judging a car’s speed and distance, and they often think if they can see the driver, then the driver can see them.

• When driving in school zones, near playgrounds or in neighborhoods where children might be playing, motorists should always expect a child to dart out into the roadway.

• When turning left at a green light or making a right turn on red, drivers need to look for pedestrians, as well as cars. Pedestrians always have the right of way in these situations.

• Avoid using a cellphone in and around school zones. Children’s actions can be unpredictable, and if you are texting, talking or making a call, it can affect your ability to react quickly.

Tips for kids walking

• Cross at an intersection or crosswalk, if available.

• Walk on the sidewalk if there is one. If you have to walk on the road, walk facing traffic so you can see what’s coming.

• Walk with a friend.

• At intersections with traffic lights, watch for cars and obey traffic signals.

Tips for kids biking

• Don’t ride a bike in the road until you can fully understand traffic rules and can show your parents that you know how to follow them.

• Always wear a helmet and follow traffic safety rules when riding your bike.

• Walk your bike through intersections.

• Give cars and pedestrians the right of way – always let them go first.

Source: S.C. Department of Public Safety

Students at more than three dozen Aiken County schools will hit the books again on Aug. 18. Lt. Jake Mahoney, a spokesman for the Aiken Department of Public Safety, said motorists should expect to encounter traffic delays for the first couple of weeks of the new year.

“All roadways near a school in the city will see changes in the traffic patterns,” he said, adding that East Pine Log Road will be particularly troublesome with three schools located close together, as well as Hitchcock Parkway near Aiken Elementary and Rutland Drive near Aiken High School. “If (motorists) can avoid those school zones during their commute, that’s even better.”

Aiken Public Safety will have additional officers on patrol and on foot in the high-traffic areas as the school year starts.

Mahoney said police understand that motorists get frustrated with delays, but the safety of the children is their priority.

“Every year, we see the same cycle. Once people get adjusted to the routine – the parents, the other drivers – we see a decrease,” he said. “It’s growing pains we go through every year. Within a few weeks of school starting, we see that it goes smoother and wait times aren’t quite as long. Just bear with us – we’re doing everything we can to reduce any delays. But again, our priority is the safety of the children.”

To prepare for the delays, drivers should give themselves more time to get to their destination, said Capt. Eric Abdullah, a spokesman for the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office.

“Take your time getting to your destination. Don’t get into a rush,” he said. “Be a courteous driver. Be courteous to each other and look out for each other when you’re out driving the roadways.”

Authorities also stressed caution with school buses out on the roadways. Motorists in South Carolina are required by law to stop for a school bus that is loading or unloading passengers, but it depends on the number of lanes in the roadway.

On a two-lane roadway, motorists traveling in both directions are required to stop for a bus that has its red lights flashing and its stop sign or arm extended. If the roadway is four or more lanes, motorists approaching a school bus from the opposite direction do not have to stop.

The penalty for violating the law is a $500 fine and six points off a driver’s license for the first offense, and a $2,000 fine and six points for a second offense.

“There’s no excuse to pass a stopped school bus when its red lights and stop sign are activated,” Mahoney said. “No excuse.”

Teddy Kulmala covers the crime and courts beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since August 2012. He is a native of Williston and majored in communication studies at Clemson University.