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South Carolina's 5,680 school buses transport 350,000 students to and from school.

It’s that time of year again.

Book bags, sharpened pencils and thousands of photos of fresh faces going back to school are good reminders that we have the opportunity to roll out Aiken County’s proverbial welcome mat this week.

There will be new parents in lines to drop off and pick up. New students at Aiken Technical College and Aiken’s University of South Carolina also are rolling into town.

So, we say, “Welcome.”

Near the top of most community surveys, visions for area churches and wish lists for employers, you’ll see a desire to attract young professionals and young families to Aiken County.

We want children to have a good educational experience and the young parents to find family things to do in Aiken County. Simultaneously, our community benefits from college students who come to Aiken for the education but stay and build a home here.

For many of them, that starts this week.

Young professionals and students who attend our schools and further their education at Aiken Tech or USCA have proven to significantly impact the economy in Aiken County.

Young professionals add to the workforce, shop, eat at restaurants and keep the rental properties full.

Some of them won’t understand the circle … go; square … no rules to driving downtown. Or that Silver Bluff Road clogs up a few hours every day. Or why a horse light may make them late for work.

We’ve published a steady stream of driving tips, school tips, cellphone policies, school bus laws and school zone tips – but what drivers need the most is patience.

The Aiken Department of Public Safety urges drivers to practice patience and caution when driving this school year. 

Some of the major issues with school year traffic include increased traffic at school zones, drivers unfamiliar with traffic patterns in school zones and drivers who demonstrate aggressive or impatient behavior. 

Motorists also should be aware that speed limits drop to 25 mph in school zones when warning lights are flashing. 

Stop for school buses. When the red lights are flashing, stop. It is against the law to pass a school bus when the lights are on.

We also want to point out that police recommend drivers practice the "What if" strategy as school starts back. What if that child darts out in front of me? What if that car stops short? Remember, young children are not able to accurately determine the speed of an oncoming vehicle and may take risks crossing the street.

Use the “What if” strategy to stay alert.

As this new school year kicks off, many new residents who have moved to town will not only be learning local roads, but they may not know where they'll fit into our community.

We here in the South’s Best Small Town and Friendliest Town (Southern Living, 2018) wrote the book on hospitality. Everyone needs time to adjust and find their niche.

Let’s remember that they chose us, and we want them here for many reasons.

So, for the first few months – or even years – perhaps just wave and nod to the driver of the mid-sized SUV waiting on the light to turn green at one of our circular intersections.

One day, they’ll learn Aiken’s life lesson and traffic lesson: to just go with the flow.