This weekend marks the traditional end of summer, even though meteorological summer still has three weeks to go. September heralds many new beginnings, as students in Fairfax County embark on a new school year. For the kindergartner or first-grader, taking the big yellow bus to school may be the first real and exciting transition in a young life. For high school students, taking the bus may be a last resort as they anxiously await the responsibility of a drivers’ license and the possibility of driving themselves to school.
For students, and their parents, safety should be paramount, whether riding the bus or walking to classes. The Fairfax County Police Department reminds drivers that passing a school bus when its red lights are flashing can result in a reckless driving ticket, including $2500 in fines, loss of your license for six months, and/or 180 days in jail. All drivers must stop when a school bus is loading or unloading, unless there is a raised median or wall between the travel lane and the stopped school bus. Most of our residential streets do not have raised medians or walls so, in nearly every case where a school bus is stopped, drivers on all sides must stop. When you see the yellow lights flashing on the bus, you should assume that the red lights are about to start, and be ready to stop.
School zones may be marked with “25 MPH” flashing signs called Wink-o-Matics. The lights are activated to flash 30 minutes before school starts, and for 30 minutes after class dismissal. Please pay attention to the flashing lights and sl-o-o-w down, even if you do not see children or other pedestrians right away. Some Wink-o-Matics were malfunctioning this summer, flashing on Sundays, etc., but those were reported to the school system, and should be functioning normally now. Speeding through a Wink-o-Matic sign can result in a ticket, higher fines, and increased points against your license.
Morning and afternoon traffic around schools also may increase next week, as parents and students become accustomed to the schedules and rhythms of a new school year. If your commute takes you past a school, please exercise additional caution and patience. Everyone – drivers, students, and teachers – wants to get to their destination safely. Let’s make sure they do.
Monday is Labor Day, a holiday designated by Congress more than 100 years ago, to celebrate the social and economic achievements of America’s workers. Perhaps more importantly, and sometimes lost in the busy world we live in, Labor Day also is a time to remind us about the many improvements in worker conditions that have transpired since Labor Day was created. Child labor laws, the 8-hour workday, employee health care, retirement accounts, and workplace safety are only a few of the improvements demanded by labor since the 1880s. Workers are safer, better paid, with benefit packages, and more opportunity, than they were in my grandfathers’ day. There always has been dignity in work. Labor Day gives everyone an opportunity to remember and reflect on those advancements.
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at [email protected]