As kids head back to school, police ask drivers to put their phones down, add extra time

FAIRFAX, Va. — Police are asking drivers to pay special attention and leave extra time for their commute Monday morning as students head back to class in Fairfax and Prince William counties.

“There’s going to be more traffic, so patience is key,” said Fairfax County police Officer Sheila Ayers.

Fairfax County is Virginia’s largest school system and the 10th largest in the nation with around 188,000 students, while Prince William County has around 89,000 public school students.

Thousands of teachers add to the early morning and afternoon commuters, too.

“Leave early, be prepared, know that there’s those school zones, there’s those buses that are out there that are going to be stopping, just allow for that time in the morning to get there safely,” said Ayers, who works in the traffic safety division.

Ayers urged parents, students and teachers to follow traffic signals and wait to drop children off or pick them up in approved locations at each school.

“I know that the lines can be forever long, but wait in that line,” she said. “There’s nothing more important than saying goodbye to your son or daughter and knowing that they’ve gotten to their destination safe, so pay attention to the crosswalks, the crossing signs, don’t cross in between parked cars … don’t play chicken in traffic.”

Half of all fatal crashes in Fairfax County last year involved a car striking someone on foot. Even more was in relation to distracted driving.

“Don’t be distracted, put your phone down,” Ayers said. “If you’re eating that doughnut in the morning — there’s the joke, cops love their doughnuts and coffee — we’ll put our doughnut and coffee down, that tells you something, when we’re outside driving.”

She also suggested that drivers who really cannot stop looking at their phones should put them in the back seat. “There’s nothing that’s worth somebody else’s life.”

Police plan to have extra presence across the county at the start of school to ensure everyone is safe.

“Don’t just do it for us though, do it for the kids,” Ayers said.

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