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With schools back in session, motorists urged to drive carefully

Chris Caya/WBFO News

Summer vacation is over for thousands of children across the region and the AAA and local law enforcement are reminding motorists that "School's Open, Drive Carefully."

Chief Scott Joslyn with the Erie County Sheriff's Office says one rule drivers forget is that they must stop for all stopped school buses, even on a divided highway.

"[Don't] speed up when you see the yellow flashing lights, which is an indication that the bus is intending to stop. Prepare to stop and come to a complete stop, which is a cessation of motion, 20 feet behind the bus," Joslyn said, at a news conference Thursday morning.

First time offenders face a $250-400 fine and/or 15-days in jail. But State Police Captain Steven
Grapp says that shouldn't be the most serious deterrent.

"Possibly seriously injuring or causing the death of a young child, that should be reason enough to pay attention and be careful with our skills when we're driving. We ask that people practice their defensive driving skills and maybe when they're behind the wheel, have a little dose of healthy fear," said Grapp.

Buffalo Police Lt. Jeffrey Rinaldo says a common excuse drivers use when pulled over for passing a stopped school bus is they're late for work.

"Leave a few minutes early, especially when you know school is in session. Give yourself extra time on your commute in or out of the city or your hometown so that you have enough to deal with the school buses," Rinaldo suggested.

According to the AAA, more than one-third of drivers roll through stop signs in school zones or residential areas and one-fifth of traffic fatalities among kids 14 and younger are pedestrians. 

AAA is also urging motorists to slow down in school zones and focus on the road ahead, rather than mobile devices or in-car technologies.