DPS urges traffic safety as school begins
Students cross the street at a designated crossing point as they journey to Fort Rucker Primary School for the first day of school. Fort Rucker schools will be back in session Aug. 6.

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (August 1, 2013) -- Children are sharpening their pencils and packing their lunches to prepare for the upcoming school year, and with schools opening Aug. 6 comes higher foot traffic in the housing areas.

The Directorate of Public Safety will do all it can to make sure that children stay safe as they journey to school for the new year, but a lot of the responsibility will fall on the drivers that will be traveling near the school zones, said Marcel Dumais, chief of police on Fort Rucker.

"What I'd like to do is ask the public to slow down in the housing areas," said Dumais. "Currently, we patrol the housing areas and what we're going to do as a run-up to the new school year is focus more on traffic enforcement as far as speed control and things like that," he said. "When school starts, there will be a lot more pedestrian traffic in those areas, especially in the mornings and afternoons, so people need to be aware of this."

Dumais said that there will be increased police presence in the school-zone areas for the first few weeks of school, as well as signage and traffic lights that will give people a visual representation of when school is in session and when children are more likely to be near the roadways.

Responsibility doesn't lie with just drivers on the roadways, however. One main problem that Dumais said he sees every year is that there are too many unsupervised children making their way to and from the schools.

"Parents need to be out there monitoring and supervising their children as often as they can," he said, adding that for those who don't have the option to watch their children, to teach them the proper safety habits as they trek to and from school each day.

"Parents should sit down and have a talk with their children, and let them know to stay on the sidewalks as they're walking to school," said Dumais. "Make sure that they know when they come to the road where they have to cross, that they look both ways, and I ask the same of those riding bikes," adding that those riding bikes should wear protective gear, such as helmets and pads.

Peggy Contreras, Fort Rucker Community Police supervisor, suggests that parents get to know the school routes with their children and walk with the children to school for at least the first week. Also, parents should get to know their neighbors.

"They should try to get a buddy system going if they have neighbors (with children) going to school as well," she suggested.

Parents should also know that there is one main crosswalk in front of Fort Rucker Elementary School on Red Cloud Road that children are required to use, and that children are not permitted to cross it before 7:30 a.m.

"There have been issues with children getting there too early and climbing trees, throwing rocks and fighting, which poses obvious safety issues," said Contreras. "We don't want children to be there with no supervision, so it's the parent's responsibility to make sure they get to school when they're supposed to."

When children are crossing the street, Dumais suggests that they do it in large groups, which not only helps by providing higher visibility of the children to drivers, but keeps traffic flowing at a much quicker pace compared to having one child cross at a time.

During early morning and afternoon school-zone commutes, an officer will be stationed at the intersection in front of the school to direct traffic, and Dumais asked that people be aware of the officer and make sure to abide by his or her commands.

"It's a very dangerous spot for a person to be -- in the middle of the road -- and people are usually in a hurry in the morning and that area can become very congested," he said. "We know that people are busy, they have their lives to deal with, but they need to be really careful and patient."

Page last updated Thu August 1st, 2013 at 14:22