Our Voice: Slow down and watch for kids; school starts today

This morning's drive to work could be a little different, so be patient and attentive.

Today is the first day of school in many parts of the Tri-Cities and that means more teen drivers on the road, more children congregating on street corners and school buses once again making frequent stops.

It has been several weeks since commuters had to worry about 20 mph school zone signs. Now they need to be ready to slow down when they see those yellow lights flashing. It's likely police will be on the lookout for speeders, even unintentional ones.

It's worth noting that fines double for speeding in school zones and, by state law, they cannot be mitigated. Your inattention could be costly -- or even dangerous.

Crossing guards in their orange vests will be helping kids cross the busier streets, so remember to stop well in front of crosswalks and wait until all pedestrians are safely on the other side before moving on.

Drivers near Kennewick High School will need to be especially cautious, as a delay in construction of the Dayton Street bridge will be causing even more congestion than usual.

The city had hoped the project would be completed before now, but the contractor said a holdup in getting materials has set things back.

Parents of students driving to Kennewick High School should encourage them to plan ahead and get to school a little earlier than normal so they can manage the parking lot more safely. With the entrance to the school from First Avenue blocked, more students will be coming in from the other direction and it could be a real mess.

Drivers also need to be alert this afternoon when school gets out.

Kids have been known to dart from the school bus or ride their bikes a bit carelessly.

No one likes to get behind a school bus that is making several stops. It's slow and frustrating.

But there is no choice than to wait when the bus lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended.

All these tips are common sense, but it doesn't hurt to remind drivers to be prepared for the changes a new school year brings to the road.

While it is up to the adults to be smart, it wouldn't hurt if parents gave their children a few instructions before they headed out the door this morning.

Children who bike to and from school should know proper traffic rules and wear bike helmets and those who walk should stay on the sidewalks if there are any and watch for cars.

Those who wait at bus stops should make sure they don't push and shove each other into the street, even if it's done in a playful way.

The beginning of the school year is exciting. Let's make it safe as well.