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Martinsville Bulletin, Inc.
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Martinsville, Virginia 24115
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DMV funds help traffic

Monday, September 30, 2013

By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Grants from the Department of Motor Vehicles are being used to make school zones safer.

Henry County Sheriff’s Capt. Rik Vaughn said patrol officers are using some of the total of $38,000 in DMV grant funds to try and “slow people down in school zones” while working to relieve congested traffic in some areas.

“We are working and running patrol in all of the school zones but our focus areas are” at John Redd Smith, Axton and Drewry Mason elementary schools, Vaughn said.

“The three are our primary concerns because they are the most dangerous places” due to traffic patterns for vehicles turning into the school or back out on the main roads, he said.

At John Redd, for instance, Vaughn said it is difficult for traffic to get into the school, particularly in the mornings.

“We are directing traffic there in the mornings to try and make it flow a little better and we are trying to make it less dangerous” for people turning into the school parking lots from U.S. 220, or getting back on the main road, he said.

“We’ve also been doing some targeted enforcement in that and other areas to get people to slow down,” he said.

Since the beginning of the school year, Vaughn said 23 tickets have been written for speeding in a school zones. The speed is 25 miles per hour when the yellow lights are flashing.

Higher speed limits, such as 30 or 35 miles per hour, are posted at or near all school zones, he said. Those are the speed limits are in effect when the yellow lights are not flashing.

Along with the speed/safety patrols, Vaughn said drivers must remember to stop for school buses picking up or dropping off students.

Whether it’s because a driver is distracted or some other reason, Vaughn said the senseless tragedies in which children die or are injured while boarding and exiting school buses can be stopped if drivers are alert, cautious and follow the law — which requires vehicles to stop for school buses in both lanes of traffic on two-lane roads.

Four-lane roads often create the most confusion for drivers because a driver may have to stop for a school bus at one section of the road but not at another, Vaughn said.

“If there is a physical barrier on a four-lane road, only traffic on the same side of the road as the bus must stop,” he said.

Trees are one example of a physical barrier, he said.

For instance, traffic in the opposite lane of travel of buses loading and unloading students near the Valero convenience store on Kings Mountain Road would not be required to stop because there is a physical divider, Vaughn said.

“But there are other parts of Kings Mountain Road without a physical divider, and traffic in all four lanes is required to stop” for school buses, he said.

Turn lanes are not considered physical barriers, he said.

If unsure, Vaughn advises drivers to be cautious and stop. It only takes a few minutes for students to board or exit the bus, and those few minutes could avert a tragedy, he said.

At the least, it may save drivers from a ticket and a fine, Vaughn said. Those convicted of not stopping for a stopped school bus can be fined up to $250, he said.

“We’ve been very blessed by getting the DMV grant and using that money to help” keep youngsters safe, Vaughn said. He added traffic and enforcement efforts at county schools “will continue indefinitely at this point.”

 

 
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