By Scott Hammers

The Bulletin

More than 30,000 students across Central Oregon are going back to school this week. With school buses back on the road and thousands more students walking and biking to school, drivers will need to stay alert and attentive.

Drivers are required to stop for school buses that have activated their red safety lights, whether they are approaching the bus from behind or from the front.

Bend Police Department spokesman Lt. Clint Burleigh said his department regularly hears from school bus drivers reporting other drivers have passed them while their red safety lights are on.

Julianne Repman, communications director for Bend-La Pine Schools, said she also thinks drivers tend to forget about slowing down in school zones over the summer. Seeing yellow school buses on the road when school starts up again is a helpful visual cue to drivers that they need to be looking for students in or near the street.

On days when school is in session, drivers are required to drive at 20 mph or less in posted school zones between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. In areas posted “when children are present,” drivers should slow to 20 mph or less when children are in a crosswalk, on a curb or shoulder adjacent to the street, or when there is a crossing guard assisting children in the area.

According to Bend Police, 95 percent of pedestrians will survive if struck by a vehicle going 20 mph, but survival rates go down sharply as speeds increase. Just 60 percent will survive being struck by a car traveling 30 mph, and just 10 percent struck by a car traveling 40 mph.

Burleigh said Bend Police will actively patrol the areas around schools over the next month, looking for drivers who are driving unsafely in posted school zones. He said past experience shows many drivers forget about school zones and their lowered speed limits over the summer, and increased police presence can help encourage safer, slower driving.

Brian Potwin, who oversees the Safe Routes to School program for Commute Options, said students walking or biking to school should wear reflective clothing or take other steps to maximize their visibility. Before crossing the street, look left, look right, then look left again, Potwin said.

— Reporter: 541-383-0387, shammers@bendbulletin