With students returning to school across the Pine Belt earlier this week, local law enforcement officials are encouraging motorists to keep a close eye on increased traffic and observe safety measures, particularly while in school zones.
Lamar County Sheriff Danny Rigel said in particular, there are a lot of new drivers who recently received their drivers’ licenses over the summer.
“They’re going to be inexperienced drivers, so just pay attention and try to drive defensively,” he said. “You’ve got a lot of kids entering the first grade riding school buses, and they’re all excited about getting home and telling their mom what happened at school, and they may dart out in front of you in between cars where you don’t see them.
“So always look for kids, and do not pass a stopped school bus. You have to stop in both directions – if they put up their yellow (sign), it means they’re slowing down about to stop, and when the red lights come on and the crossing arm comes out, that’s like a stop sign. You can’t pass that bus, and I think all the buses have cameras now that the schools can turn over to law enforcement, showing the tag number and a vehicle passing a stopped school bus. So if you do it, there’s going to be a good chance you’ll get a citation.”
In addition, deputies will patrol school zones heavily – particular during school hours – in search of reckless drivers, or motorists obviously exceeding the speed limit.
“We can’t run radar in the county, but we can write you a ‘careless driving’ ticket, and they’re quite expensive,” Rigel said.
Rigel also is urging motorists to exercise caution around construction zones, as there are several road improvements and new developments taking place around the county.
“The (Lamar County) Board of Supervisors has done real well on fixing most of the roads, with road projects during the summer, so it wouldn’t interfere with school,” he said. “But there is some construction still going on.
“So especially if you have to go through a school zone to get to work or wherever you’re going, you might want to plan a little bit of extra time and leave a little early.”