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Back To School: Driving safe around school buses and zones

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Richland, WA - School is back in session, and that means more safety patrols in school zones.  Some rules of the road that drivers didn't have to worry about during the Summer, are getting reinstated.   

Local law enforcement agencies like, Pasco Police Department and Washington State Patrol took to their social media pages to remind the community of some important rules.  Richland Police Department is actually stepping up their patrol units in the school zones, to help make sure drivers are aware of the rules back in place.  

"The primary one is the school zone and being in our school zones, but we are also to our bus routes and our crossing guards that are working those bus routes," said Officer Doug Doss, with the Richland Police Department Traffic Safety Unit.

A school zone is the area immediately surrounding any school, the zones are active when the light above it's speed limit sign is flashing, which is typically during morning and late afternoon times of the day when the kids are getting in or out of school...during those active school times, you will see those crossing guards out too.

When driving near school school buses, and you see the flashing lights and paddle come out, you must treat it like a stop sign  Sometimes it is hard to tell when when those specific rules apply to you - especially if you are, say on the other side of the road from the school bus.  

"It's the visual indication that the school bus is coming to a stop to let off students, so you need to stop behind the school bus or if there is a lane parallel to the school bus stop where the paddle is at.  If it's a two lane road both lanes have to stop, but if it's a four lane road only the lanes that are going in the same direction of the school bus have to stop," said Officer Doss.

Officer doss says that if you don't follow the rules and a police officer is not in the area, bus drivers are actually trained to spot and document drivers and can report the information to authorities.

Drivers who violate the rules and get caught could face fines  upwards of $400, and upwards of $200 for not obeying a crossing guard.

Officer Doss says the most important thing to do is be vigilant, pay extra attention to the roads, and give yourself more time to get to where you're going especially with more kids and families getting to and from school.