Drivers urged to be patient as school starts

Drivers are being urged to use an extra dose of caution this week, particularly in school zones, as La Cañada students return to campuses Tuesday for the start of the new academic year, Los Angeles County Sheriff's officials said.

"Our units will focus their attention in and around the schools, especially during the first couple of weeks to make sure people comply with the laws that are in place," Sgt. Mark Slater said.

Parents should set a good example for their children by abiding by safety rules, Slater said, including driving the speed limit and bringing their cars to complete stops before disengaging seatbelts.

Slater said that both drivers and parents can help guard against a common safety error made by children — stepping into the street from between two parked cars. A small child might not visible to drivers until it is too late, he noted. Also, he said, parents should cross with their children only at crosswalks.

Children who ride bicycles, scooters or skateboards to school must wear appropriate safety gear, including a helmet, Slater said. Bicycles must abide by the same traffic rules that govern automobile traffic, he added. Scooters and skateboards should be ridden only on sidewalks.

Deputies will be on the lookout for drivers making hand-held cell phone calls while they're behind the wheel, Slater said.

"It is illegal to be in a vehicle and using your cell phone, and it is even more dangerous to be in and around a school zone on a cell phone," he said.

Parents dropping off and picking up children should consult their school's traffic circulation plan and follow the instructions of school staff and parent volunteers who are on site, Slater said. And above all, he advised, use caution.

"Be patient during the first couple of weeks," Slater said, referring to parents of school children in particular. "Just because you have been going to the school for a couple of years doesn't mean the person behind you has."

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