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As schools open, NH motorists are reminded of safety issues

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 24. 2014 12:00AM

With most school districts welcoming kids back to classes this week, it’s time to remind drivers to observe traffic rules regarding school buses and crossing guards.

Only three districts are already open: Coe Brown Academy in Northwood led the pack as usual, having started classes Aug. 19, and Rumney and Pemi-Baker schools started Thursday.

But this week is the big back-to-school week, with 140 districts opening on a staggered schedule.

Opening Monday are 29 districts, including Plymouth, Raymond and Little; opening Tuesday are 39 districts, including Laconia, Bedford and Nashua; opening Wednesday are another 60 districts, including Bow, Pembroke and Rochester, and among the even dozen opening Thursday are Pinkerton, Northwood and North Hampton.

A number of the schools opening this week give kids a four-day weekend, with no class this Friday or Labor Day on Sept. 1. Another 36 districts start class Tuesday, Sept. 2, including White Mountains, Souhegan and Merrimack, with the last three of the 182 districts opening Wednesday, Sept. 3.

Bringing up the rear are Manchester, Goffstown and New Boston.

Police in Keene, where classes begin Wednesday, offered a reminder about crossing guards’ responsibilities and powers.

After a carefree summer of cruising through school crosswalks, it can be annoying to have to stop when a crossing guard walks into the road and holds up a stop sign.

It may help to remember why they are there. They are protecting the children headed to and from school; children who might otherwise just dart out into the street in an effort to "make it" across the street before the cars reach them; children who have no idea how long it takes a car to stop, even with amazingly fast driver reaction time.

If that’s not sufficient incentive for stopping, a New Hampshire law requires motorists to obey the instructions of the crossing guard.

Motorists are supposed to stop at least 25 feet before reaching the crossing guard and not proceed until the guard indicates it is possible to do so safely.

Violations reported to the police department are investigated and the motorist may be subject to a summons with a $100 fine for the first offense, and up to $250 if it happens again during a calendar year.

Then there are the school buses that seem to stop at every driveway on the block when you are running late.

Manchester Police Traffic Unit Sgt. Andrew Vincent said when the alternating red lights are flashing, motorists must stop no closer than 25 feet from a bus. This applies to drivers going in either direction on a two-lane road, a highway of three or more lanes or in a school yard with no dedicated loading area.

Vincent said the only exceptions are when traveling in the opposite direction on a divided highway or when a bus is stopped in a loading zone that is part of or adjacent to a controlled access highway where pedestrians aren’t permitted to cross the roadway.

Now, about the yellow flashing lights on the bus: They are a warning activated at least 100 feet in advance of a planned stop to warn motorists traveling in either direction that a stop is ahead. Vincent also urged motorists to watch out for students who may be trying to cross the street before the red lights begin flashing.

Vincent warned motorists who figure they can zip right past a stopped bus when a police car is not present that testimony under oath by a school bus driver or other witness claiming that a vehicle failed to stop, or remain stopped, is sufficient unless rebutted or contradicted and upheld by the court.

The fines are not less than $100 and do not exceed $250 for the first offense. For a subsequent offense within a 12-month period, fines are not less than $200 nor more than $500.

But the financial penalty doesn’t stop there. A conviction for passing a stopped bus puts six points on your record, the equivalent of a DWI conviction. Depending on your age, six points can result in a license suspension for up to three months. Since most auto insurance rates are based upon driving records, those with convictions and accidents pay considerably more. It takes three consecutive years without a conviction or accident to restore your safe driver insurance rate.

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