Use caution on roadways Monday as school begins

Many hundreds of thousands of students will head back to school on Monday. Yes, summer is over.

So, there will be police all over the place, making sure drivers don’t do anything stupid.

“The best advice is to use an abundance of caution,” said Las Vegas police Sgt. Todd Raybuck.

Police have given notice: They will be paying special attention to areas near schools, using saturation patrols as they watch for distracted drivers, speeders and drivers not yielding to pedestrians.

State law mandates that drivers stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, whether or not they’re in a school zone. It also requires cars to stop at crosswalks if another car is stopped there.

Drivers must stop for school crossing guards and can’t go again until everyone, including the crossing guard, is safely back on the sidewalk.

Passing a stopped school bus with its lights flashing is also a no-no. Vehicles in both directions have to stop; there is an exception for vehicles traveling in the opposite direction on a divided highway.

School zones and school crossing zones are a little more complicated. The general rule is this: Slow down.

A school crossing zone is an area near a school where people might be crossing the road. The speed limit is 25 mph, and signs are posted saying so.

There are more than 350 schools in town, odds are at least one is along everyone’s commute.

School zones are those roads directly adjacent to a school. Speed limits are 15 mph in school zones, and signs are posted.

Unless otherwise posted, both school zones and school crossing zones are in effect from a half hour before school starts to a half hour after school is over.

Often, the times the zone is in effect is posted on the signs. Sometimes, flashing yellow lights accompany the signs.

Sometimes, there are signs saying the slower speed limits are in effect “when children are present.” There are many interpretations of this, so police advise drivers to interpret it broadly. Slow down and you won’t get a ticket.

“Children are often unpredictable,” Raybuck noted. “They step off the curb without thinking. Drivers should slow down.”

In addition to more than 300,000 students in the Clark County School District, some 70,000 students will start classes at the valley’s three colleges Monday.

Maryland Parkway in front of UNLV will be very busy, as will the intersection of Charleston Boulevard and Torrey Pines Avenue, the site of the College of Southern Nevada’s largest campus.

Although there won’t be school zones in effect at the colleges, drivers should use caution. Many students will be new to the area, and many more will be searching for elusive parking spaces in frustration.

UNLV officials advised that those students should plan ahead. Know where you’re going, get there early, park in the lot at the Thomas & Mack Center, even if it means walking a bit more. Maybe even carpool or take the bus.

There’s a newly opened transit center (that’s a fancy term for bus stop) on the UNLV campus behind the In-N-Out Burger. UNLV students get a huge discount on bus passes.

But most students will drive, like they always have, and they’ll try to park in the crowded front lot on Maryland Parkway, like they always have.

So, no matter where you are in town, there will either be little kids doing what little kids do, or college students doing what they always do.

Be careful out there.

Contact reporter Richard Lake at or 702-383-0307.

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