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Posted on: November 26, 2018

SAFE for the Holidays aims to protect school kids


Local law enforcement agencies are acting to save the lives of school children who may be at risk, especially in rural areas.
The Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office, in conjunction with Absentee Shawnee Tribal Police, Noble Police, Noble School Police and Norman Police, are rolling out Operation SAFE for the Holidays. “During the last week in October, several children in various states were killed while waiting for the school bus or getting on or off the bus,” Sheriff Todd Gibson said. “We don’t want to wait until something tragic happens here. We are cooperating with other area agencies to proactively protect our school children.”
Operation SAFE starts Monday, Nov. 26, 2018, in an effort to protect school children getting on and off the school bus. Drivers should STOP, be AWARE, FOCUS, and be ENGAGED in what is going on when buses are picking up or dropping off kids. The Cleveland County Sheriff's Office will focus on high risk routes for Noble, Lexington and Little Axe school districts. Beyond obvious dangerous driving situations, an emphasis will be placed on drivers who are speeding, passing school buses loading and off-loading students and other moving traffic violation that have an impact on student safety.
“One concern is that since they widened Highway 77 from two lanes to four lanes, people are under the assumption that if they’re going in the opposite direction, they’re not required to stop,” said Chief Deputy Jose Chavez. “That’s dangerous because children could be crossing that highway to get to the other side of the road.” In Mississippi, a child died after getting hit by a pickup truck while crossing Highway 370 to board a school bus.
When yellow lights are flashing on the school bus, motorists should prepare to stop. When the red flashing lights come on and the stop placards pops out, motorists should stop at least 20 feet from the bus. When the red flashing lights go off and the yellow lights come on, motorists may proceed with caution. Chavez said divided highways with a physical barrier do not require a stop for drivers going in the opposite direction, according to Oklahoma law, but drivers are still encouraged to slow down and pay attention.
If there is no physical barrier separating the road, no matter the number of lanes, vehicles must stop for school buses when the red lights are flashing and the stop placard is displayed. In general, rural school districts have a higher level of risk for school kids crossing roads after being dropped off by the bus because of higher speed limits along rural routes compared to city neighborhoods and a lack of awareness that traffic driving in both directions should stop, Chavez said.
While many of the stops during Operation SAFE will result in a warning as part of this public education and safety initiative, tickets will be given in the case of more serious violations. “The educational component is an important part of Operation SAFE,” Gibson said. “This is not about seeing how many tickets we can write. This is about seeing how many lives we can protect. For every driver we educate, that’s a potential life saved down the road when that driver is making a decision about how to behave when encountering a bus loading or off-loading children.”

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