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AAA and local law enforcement prepare parents & drivers for back to school traffic

WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. (WIVB) — Starting next week, students will zip up their backpacks and head back to class, so local law enforcement and AAA are teaming up to remind drivers the importance of taking the safety of students into consideration during their commute.

“Leave yourself some extra time when you go to work these next couple weeks. There will be a lot of buses, a lot of families taking pictures of their kids getting on the bus and building those memories; we don’t want to make bad memories.” said Trooper James O’Callaghan, NYS Police.

Nicole Holloway of Child and Family Services discusses back to school stress

Over 2 million students will return to the classroom throughout New York State, and this is the 76th year Triple A and law enforcement are holding the “School’s Open, Drive Carefully” campaign to encourage drivers to slow down and be aware that school is open again.

“We ask you to watch your speed, and that you take your time, and you’re extra careful especially in the morning hours when the kids are going to be getting on the bus and then after school, after a full day of classes they’ll want to be outside playing.” said Elizabeth Cary, AAA Director of Public Relations. “That message is more important now more than ever before. There’s so many distractions behind the wheel these days, we’re asking people to put the phones down, focus on safety, look out for little ones, look for those school buses.”

According to Trooper O’Callaghan, people are 23% more likely to get into a collision if they’re distracted while driving and so far this year, NYS Troopers have issued 117 tickets for drivers passing a school bus.

“That’s a starling number, and those are people that were caught in the act,” said Trooper O’Callaghan, “It sounds insane that people would pass a bus with its red lights on. Unfortunately, every day, somebody, somewhere in Western New York will pass that bus.”

Not only is passing a bus dangerous for school children, but it is illegal. Erie Country Sheriff John Garcia reminded everyone that there will be increased police presence in and around the community during school commutes, and the fines that reckless drivers will face.

“$250 to $1,000, five points on your license, and a possibility of serving 30 days in jail,” said Garcia. “This is not to be an inconvenience for divers, it’s about protecting our kids.”

AAA reminded parents it’s a two-way street and that it’s important to teach students to look both ways, cross at crosswalks and to stay alert, to ensure safety while heading to school.

Hope Winter is a reporter and multimedia journalist who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of her work here.

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