RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas –
With summer coming, there will be a busy youth activities program with school buses shuttling children around Randolph Air Force Base to various assorted activities.
Inexperienced teenage drivers will be out and about on the meandering roads.
Children will be cutting across roads when buses drop them off at bus stops. Also, vans will be loading and unloading household goods as the PCS season commences.
Bearing all of the above in mind, it seems logical to assume Randolph drivers will be extra-alert for pedestrians, bicyclists and just plain running children who don't heed crosswalks, much less use them -- children who once in a while fail to look both ways before darting out in front of you.
Will it be too late for you to brake?
If common sense is followed, it won't be an issue, traffic safety investigators from the 902nd Security Forces Squadron say.
"Look out for buses and vans unloading," said Staff Sgt. Marisela Gonzales, 902nd Security Forces Squadron NCO-in-charge of police services."When you see a school bus stopped with its stop signs unfurled, traffic on both sides of the street must stop."
This is critical, Sergeant Gonzales added, because children often dart from the bus' open doors not only to the adjacent curb.
They also "fishhook", making U-turns as they dart from the open doors -- and dash happily across streets.
In front of cars, that is.
"So, if you are in the oncoming lane and don't stop -- or are behind that bus and try to pull around it -- that running child could die," she said.
She added another issue is pedestrians not using crosswalks. Jaywalking is prevalent on Randolph and there have been several near misses, not just of jaywalkers, but near misses in which distracted drivers encroached and almost clipped pedestrians crossing streets.
"We've issued six citations for this in the past two months," Sergeant Gonzales confirmed.
902nd SFS traffic safety investigator Staff Sgt. Samson McFarland added it's imperative for pedestrians to look both ways before crossing and always do so at an authorized crosswalk. Pay attention to your surroundings, he noted, both for drivers and pedestrians in school zones. Heed the speed limit, cover the brake with a foot while rolling and scan. Look for children getting out of cars and into cars, because they could run in front of you.
Pedestrians should also make eye contact with drivers.
" Don't just step out onto the street. And make sure you teach children this," Sergeant McFarland emphasized."Also, don't text on a PDA while crossing; you have to pay attention to what's in front of you. Clear your mind before crossing."
Sergeant Gonzales added it's a mental game of preparation to drive safely. "When driving, you have to pay attention to the road. Now it's time to think safety first to get home to your family."
Sergeant McFarland said it's also paramount to scan ahead for kids on trikes and big wheels, and to give cyclists plenty of room on the road. It's also important to train yourself to look for bicyclists, especially children.
"I investigated an accident where a major on a bike was hit," Sergeant McFarland added, "and the driver who hit him didn't yield."
Besides unyieldy drivers, mother nature gets in the way of safety. He added if there is glare, wear sunglasses with clean lenses and engage vehicle visor shades to block it.
"Being momentarily blinded could prevent you from seeing that guy on a mountain bike crossing in front of you, or a child crossing the street in front of you," he said.
He said while driving, scan the streets with both eyes open, and remember when driving around the base exchange and the BXtra to be especially cautious for pedestrians not using crosswalks.
The key to crosswalk safety, said Linda Howlett, ground safety manager, 502nd Air Base Wing Operating Location Bravo, is that both the pedestrian and motorist each must proactively take part.
"Motorists need to yield to pedestrians at crosswalks," said Ms. Howlett, "and pedestrians need to ensure the motorist has seen them and has stopped before they step onto the road. Crosswalks indicate right-of-way but they do not provide a barrier of protection. You as the pedestrian may be right in asserting you have the right-of-way at a crosswalk, but take the time to endure drivers see you before you step off. In other words, don't be dead right."
For more school bus and pedestrian safety doctrine, contact Sergeant Gonzales at 652-1346 or Staff Sgt. McFarland at 652-2744.