Authorities emphasize safety as students head back to school

Summer is over, and the school year is about to begin. Most Bay Area students head back to school Monday for their first day, and local law enforcement agencies want to make sure students, parents and drivers are prepared.

Authorities are reminding parents to have important conversations with their kids before sending them out the door such as 'stranger danger.' It's an old phrase but one that could save a student's life. 

If students are walking to school or even just to their bus stop, pair them up with a buddy and remind them to never take shortcuts through woods or back streets. 

Always remember to cross the street at a crosswalk, preferably one where there's a crossing guard.

"We want you to be smart and be seen. When you're at school, make sure you use the crosswalks when you're crossing the streets. Make sure traffic has stopped and you're paying attention to the crossing guards," said the Tampa Police Department in a recent back to school safety video posted on their Facebook page.

Authorities also reminding those walking to school that you can't always depend on drivers to follow the rules.

"Look left, look right, look left again. Be mindful that people are not paying attention so you have to pay attention, and just being obedient to the laws," said Amanda Peña, a local parent.

If your student is going to be walking to school, make sure you know what neighborhoods they'll be passing through and what route is the safest. You can check to see if there are any sex offenders nearby for your student to avoid through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's website.

But law enforcement is also reminding drivers that the start of school means busier roadways so allow yourself extra time during your morning drive. 

Drivers are also being told to put the phones down this school year. Starting October 1, drivers must also be hands-free while in a school zone. A grace period will run until the end of the year, but after that, if you're caught on your phone you will get a ticket.
But perhaps the biggest reminder officials have is that when a school bus stops, you should too.

"It's very dangerous. Kids could be coming out of nowhere, and you can't just blow past them. You could easily hit them, easy, you can't see the kids coming out of the right side," said Cristian Muñoz, a local driver. 

Authorities say the only time you are allowed to keep driving while a stopped school bus is in sight is when you are on a divided highway with a large unpaved space or median between you and the bus. Any other time, even on a four lane road, you must come to a complete stop.