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|Lawmen urge road safety, warn of new laws|
With the opening of parish schools this week, local law enforcement officials are urging motorists to be aware of changes to laws and be cautious of students while traveling.
"We want people to be mindful of the increase in school buses and students on the roads in the coming weeks," said Kevin Cobb, chief deputy of the Franklin Parish Sheriff's Department. "It's a little congested at first and we want everyone to be safe and aware of their presence while they are traveling."
By law, when a school bus stops to drop off or pick up students, motorists must stop, too.
"It's important for drivers to pay more attention while out on the roads during school, because children often don't — especially in the streets," said Winnsboro Police Chief Lester Thomas. "We want everyone to be cautious and watchful of children in the streets and we will be out in force to make sure everyone is safe."
The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission reminds motorists that it is important to stop 30 feet from a school bus to ensure the safety of children.
According to Louisiana law, when a school bus stops to load and unload, other drivers must stop at least 30 feet from the bus. The law requires this whether a driver is meeting the bus or traveling behind it. However, if the bus is stopped in a loading zone completely off the roadway where pedestrians are not allowed to cross the roadway, drivers do not have to stop. If there is a median separating roadways, drivers are not required to stop for a stopped school bus in the opposite lane. But if a school bus stops on a multiple-lane road that is not separated by a median or any barriers, drivers must stop until the bus moves again or until visual warning signals are not in use.
Thomas also reminds young drivers of the dangers of talking or texting on cell phones while driving.
During the 2010 Legislative Session, Louisiana lawmakers voted to pass a bill that makes text messaging or using a wireless communication device while driving a motor vehicle a primary offense for all Louisiana drivers.
The new law also prohibits persons 17 years of age or younger to operate a motor vehicle while using any "wireless telecommunications device." This would include cell phones, laptops, PDAs and pagers. Cell phone use for persons over the age of 17 is still legal in Louisiana.
Other laws passed during the session address minors with driving permits, riding bicycles in traffic, driver's education courses and the expansion of drug free jones from 1,000 feet to 2,000 feet from designated properties.