More than 53,000 Rutherford County and Murfreesboro City Schools' students are returning to school this week with the Sheriff's Office urging drivers to be careful near school zones and bus stops, said Sgt. Michael Rodgers.
"We will focus on school zones," said Rogers.
The new Hands Free Tennessee law makes it illegal for drivers to hold a cellphone or mobile device to talk, write, send or read any texts while driving.
Drivers who use cell phones in school zones face a $200 fine, Rodgers said.
Sheriff's school crossing guards will be posted to direct traffic at the county schools.
Drivers are asked to be extra patient with additional traffic near the Rockvale Elementary, Rockvale Middle and new Rockvale High School zones on state Route 99 (New Salem Highway).
The National Safety Council asked drivers to slow down and share the road with parents, students and teachers returning to school.
"School buses are picking up their passengers, kids on bikes are hurrying to get to school before the bell rings, harried parents are trying to drop their kids off before work, the council reported."
"It's never more important for drivers to slow down and pay attention than when kids are present – especially before and after school," the council reported.
The council reminded drivers to give greater space behind a school bus to give more time to stop when the yellow lights begin flashing.
It is illegal to pass a school bus stopped to load or unload children.
Here are additional tips from the council:
- Never pass a bus from behind – or from either direction if you're on an undivided road – if it is stopped to load or unload children.
- If the yellow or red lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended, traffic must stop.
- The area 10 feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for children; stop far enough back to allow them space to safely enter and exit the bus.
- Be alert; children often are unpredictable, and they tend to ignore hazards and take risks.
Photo: School Resource Officer Sgt. Bill West, Patrol Sgt. Michael Rodgers and student Kent Turner urge people to be prepared to stop when they see flashing lights from a school bus.