As school systems across Northeast Georgia get back in session, local officials have issued some warnings for drivers about safe practices for driving around school buses and school zones.
Hall County Sheriff's Sergeant Todd Casper appeared on WDUN's Afternoon News Wrap Thursday and he said that drivers need to be cautious when driving near a school bus.
"You know they're going to be stopping and starting, you know they're going to be picking up kids, so the big thing when you're around them, just slow down and expect the unexpected," Casper said.
He said drivers need to remember the state law requiring drivers in the opposite lane of a two-lane road to stop when a bus stops to pick up or drop off students. He said that law does not apply to four-lane divided highways, where only traffic moving in the same direction as the bus must stop.
Casper added that there is a new law in Georgia that went into effect on July 1 that now allows drivers in opposite lanes to drive past a stopped school bus, but only if there is a turning lane between the two lanes.
Casper also said that drivers need to stay slow when driving in school zones.
"Most of them in Hall County are generally about 10 miles an hour below the normal posted speed limit," Casper said. "There'll be officers in those school zones directing traffic, there'll be also officers in those school zones running speed detection."
The speed limit changes, he said, are only in effect when the lights on the road signs are flashing. A crossing guard was injured when she was struck by a vehicle while directing traffic at a north Hall County elementary school in December of last year.
Managing Director of Traffic Safety Advocacy for AAA Amy Stacke said that parents driving their kids to school need to be prepared for the more hectic driving conditions.
"The start of the school year is a particularly challenging time for parents because of new routines and increased traffic. We encourage anyone taking children to school, and all drivers, to establish habits that help them to stay focused on the task of driving.," Stacke said.
AAA is also warning of the dangers of students walking to school. They say that over the last 10 years, more school-age pedestrians have been killed during the hours of 6:00 to 7:00 a.m. and 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. than any other time of the day.