Editorial: Vigilance at the wheel

Last week, Wilton’s picturesque “country” roads were once again transformed morning and afternoon into bustling, child-filled thoroughfares where traffic stops and starts and backs up as buses make their rounds getting children to and from school. Take a deep breath. Keep both hands on the wheel and both eyes on the road. School’s in.

Wilton sends more than 4,000 children to school every day. Most of them wait on street corners and the sides of roads in the mornings and get off buses onto the streets in the afternoon.

Now is the time to remind everyone in the family to take extra time and use extra caution when traveling Wilton’s roads. It is more imperative than ever as work on the Yankee Gas pipeline project continues along roads in town and near our schools. Vigilance is key.

Those with school-aged children should talk to them about bus safety, and the importance of taking the rules seriously. Children should always wait for their bus driver’s OK before crossing in front of a bus. They also need to know that admonitions to stay seated and talk quietly are not meant to be a punishment, but are meant to reduce distractions for drivers who have the lives of 40 to 60 youngsters in their hands.

Other drivers need to be extra careful during the early morning and afternoon when buses are carrying their precious cargo. AAA of New England says the afternoon hours are particularly dangerous, with nearly one in four child pedestrian fatalities occurring between 3 and 7 p.m.

Never, never, never pass a stopped school bus that has its red lights flashing. Never. No place you “have to get to” is more important than the life of the child that may be crossing in front of the bus that’s stopped.

Other important reminders from AAA:

  • Slow down. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 25 mph is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling just 10 mph faster.
  • Come to a complete stop. Research shows more than one-third of drivers roll through stop signs.
  • Eliminate distractions. Taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing.
  • Reverse with extreme care, checking for children and around your vehicle.

Especially over the next several weeks, as children, parents, and bus drivers are getting used to new routines, use an overabundance of caution. Give yourself a little more time in the mornings and evenings, take that deep breath when you get behind the wheel, and enjoy watching the smiling faces of Wilton’s school children as they begin their new year.