BLADENSBURG, Md. — Last year, 111 pedestrians died on Maryland roadways, and 257 school-age children were injured on the way to or from school.
This year, the message from Maryland transportation officials is “Look up! Look out!” It’s an effort to get drivers and pedestrians to be more alert as they get back into the school routine.
On Thursday, state and school officials gathered to talk about road safety at the Bladensburg Elementary School, where starting next week students will have to cross four lanes of traffic on busy Md. 450 each day to get to school.
In Prince George’s County, 132,000 students will be returning to school; 89,000 ride school buses. For that reason, Prince George’s County Police Sgt Joel Benjamin reminds drivers that they must stop behind school buses that have their stop-arms extended and lights flashing.
Benjamin said often drivers are rushing to get past school buses, or they’re distracted.
“We’re noticing a lot of people that aren’t paying attention — they’re on their phone, putting on makeup, putting ketchup on their Chik-Fil-A or whatever,” Benjamin said. That’s also an offense that can get drivers a ticket.
Benjamin reminded drivers that crossing guards are to be obeyed as well: “They are considered traffic control devices like a stop sign or yield sign.”
There is a $290 fine and one point attached to ignoring the direction of a crossing guard.
State Highway Administrator Greg Slater urged drivers to avoid distractions and follow the rules of the road “so that everyone can make it home safely.”
Dr. Rudolph Saunders, the transportation director for Prince George’s County Schools, said that a lot goes into choosing where students should be picked up by school buses, and in helping kids who walk to find the best routes to school.
“There’s a lot of construction going on in Prince George’s County, so we’re working to make sure we communicate with the community to let kids know the safest ways to go,” Saunders said.
A group of students came out with blue pom-poms to lead a cheer: “Look Up! Look Out! Drive Smart, Walk Smart, Safety First!”