BY LASHON BLAND — For many, back to school means stocking up on last-minute school supplies, early bedtime, and end of summer vacation. But for the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (SHA), back to school is about safety. On Wednesday, Aug. 17, SHA held a press conference promoting back to school safety: “Look Up! Look Out! It’s Time for Back to School” at Rosa L. Parks Elementary School in Hyattsville.

Partnering with SHA were representatives from Prince George’s County, public schools, AAA, police, the Baltimore Orioles Bird, and the Bowie Baysox mascot to ensure the safety of everyone. Gregory Johnson, Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administrator urged pedestrians “to see and to be seen on roadways.” Johnson spoke about focusing on pedestrian safety.

The “Look Up! Look Out!” campaign encourages students and drivers to stay alert.

Representatives anticipate an increase in traffic and in pedestrians once school resumes and reminded everyone that it’s imperative to obey traffic laws, follow the directions of crossing guards, and to stop for school buses.

“Safety is our number one priority,” said David Hill, Operations Supervisor (North) Transportation Prince George’s County Public Schools. “We educate all of our bus drivers for pedestrian safety.”


To reinforce the message, “Look Up, Look Out – Stay Alert & Walk Smart,” the Baysox mascot Louie will visit Prince George’s County schools to demonstrate safe walking tips. Parents can enter their children’s schools to be chosen for the visits via the Baysox Facebook page now through Sept. 4. SHA and the Baysox will announce the winning schools Sept. 8. One of the winning schools will also receive a visit from the Oriole’s Bird.

Hector Velez, assistant chief at Prince George’s County Police Department, spoke about crossing guards and how they are some of the most dedicated people. Velez also stressed that the police department will focus on distracted drivers.

When asked about the Safety Patrol Program in schools, Joseph Beddick, Traffic Safety Services Manager, AAA Mid-Atlantic Foundation for Safety and Education said, “It works. Plain and simple.” Beddick attests to the positive impact of Safety Patrol programs in schools throughout Prince George’s County as well as other counties. “It’s a valuable tool to assist the school staff to get kids to school safely.”

Tara Lobin, principal at Rosa L. Parks Elementary School, discussed the significance of this back-to-school safety campaign: “This is extremely important. Ninety percent of our students are daily walkers. That’s about 800 students.” It’s also important to ensure “parents are aware of driving safety rules.” In discussing dismissal time, Lobin also noted that “Principal presence is important coming to and from school.”

As students head back to school, everyone has a role to play in keeping students safe this school year, so: Look Up and Look Out! It’s time for back to school.

To further enhance children’s safety, SHA offers the following tips:

For pedestrians:

  • Use sidewalks and marked cross walks whenever possible.
  • Press the pedestrian signal button and wait for the walk signal.
  • Always stop at the curb and look left, right and left before crossing a street.
  • Watch for cars turning in or leaving driveways.
  • Walk, don’t run across the street.
  • Wear light or bright colored clothing.
  • Look up and stay alert; take off headphones while walking – no texting or playing games.

For drivers:

  • Always stop for pedestrians.
  • Treat every intersection as a crosswalk, even when none is marked.
  • Obey traffic signs, signals and markings.
  • Stop for red lights; yield to pedestrians when making a right turn on red.
  • Observe posted speed limits. Speeding only makes it more difficult to stop for pedestrians.
  • Keep your eyes on the road. It’s illegal to use a handheld phone/device or text while driving.
  • When a school bus stops, the flashing red lights go on and the stop sign flaps come out, drivers in BOTH directions are required to stop. This is the most dangerous time, with children getting on or off the bus.
  • It is against the law to pass a stopped school bus with its flashing red lights activated and stop arm extended.
  • Drivers must be patient. There is simply no room for aggressive driving around a school or school bus.