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MARC VALERO/STAFF With school starting Monday in Highlands County, drivers should remember to always follow the speed limit and slow down in school zones and near bus stops.

SEBRING — The first day of school is Monday for the Highlands County School District, which will have 89 school buses on the roadways getting kids to class.

School Board of Highlands County Transportation Director David Solomon said the first bus hits the road around 6 a.m. with the 89 buses running the elementary routes first and then the middle and high school routes.

“Hopefully we will have a safe school opening,” he said. “The first days are always interesting; a lot of parents will take their kids to school and then the kids ride the bus home in the afternoon.”

What is the top school bus safety reminder for motorists?

When those stop arms come out, no cars should go past the bus, Solomon said. They have to stop unless they are on a highway that has a median and they are traveling on the other side of the median from the bus.

The Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office offered some bus stop and school bus safety tips.

Walk with your kids to the bus stop and wait with them until the bus arrives. Tell kids to stand at least three giant steps back from the curb as the bus approaches and board the bus one at a time.

Teach kids to wait for the bus to come to a complete stop before getting off and never to walk behind the bus.

If your child needs to cross the street after exiting the bus, he or she should take five giant steps in front of the bus, make eye contact with the bus driver and cross when the driver indicates it’s safe. Teach kids to look left, right and left again before crossing the street.

Instruct younger kids to use handrails when boarding or exiting the bus. Be careful of straps or drawstrings that could get caught in the door. If your children drop something, they should tell the bus driver and make sure the bus driver is able to see them before they pick it up.

Drivers should always follow the speed limit and slow down in school zones and near bus stops. Remember to stay alert and look for kids who may be trying to get to or from the school bus.

Slow down and stop if you’re driving near a school bus that is flashing yellow or red lights. This means the bus is either preparing to stop (yellow) or already stopped (red), and children are getting on or off.

According to research by the National Safety Council, most of the children who lose their lives in bus-related incidents are 4 to 7 years old, and they’re walking. They are hit by the bus, or by a motorist illegally passing a stopped bus.

A few precautions go a long way toward keeping children safe:

• Don’t block the crosswalk when stopped at a red light or waiting to make a turn, forcing pedestrians to go around you; this could put them in the path of moving traffic.

• In a school zone when flashers are blinking, stop and yield to pedestrians crossing the crosswalk or intersection.

• Always stop for a school patrol officer or crossing guard holding up a stop sign.

• Take extra care to look out for children in school zones, near playgrounds and parks, and in all residential areas.

• Don’t honk or rev your engine to scare a pedestrian, even if you have the right of way.

• Never pass a vehicle stopped for pedestrians.

• Always use extreme caution to avoid striking pedestrians wherever they may be, no matter who has the right of way.

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