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Incirlik drivers are reminded to think safety first

INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey -- With the Incirlik American School year approaching the half way mark and new Airmen and dependents joining the Incirlik family, officials at the 39th Air Base Wing safety office and IAS want to ensure all students and parents continue to send off and return Incirlik's children from classes safe and sound.

For many Incirlik students the school day begins and ends on a bus. While students are safe in the bus on the way to and from school, the concern is walking to and from the bus stop where hazards may lie.

"Everyone should remember that kids at bus stops aren't necessarily focused on the traffic around them, but are more concerned with the upcoming school day," said Master Sgt. Darnell Edmonds, 39th ABW safety office ground safety manager. "That's why drivers must always be aware of children near the street and always stop in both directions when buses have their red hazard lights on."

Vernon Reddick, IAS school liaison officer, stressed that school buses on Incirlik differ from one to the next.

"Drivers need to be aware that buses on Incirlik aren't all the same size or color," he said. "They shouldn't be focused on the standard school bus. But no matter what color the bus is on base, drivers must come to a stop in all directions until that bus driver has ensured all of its passengers are safe and out of harms way."

According to the National Safety Council, riding a school bus is safer than riding in a car. However, students should adhere to the following safety tips: 

-- Stay away from the bus until it comes to a complete stop. 
-- When being dropped off, exit the bus and take 10 giant steps away from the bus. Keep a safe distance from the bus and remember the driver can see you best when you are away from the bus. 
-- Use the handrail to enter and exit the bus. 
-- Be aware of the street traffic around you. 
-- Stay away from the bus until the driver gives his/her signal that it's okay to approach.

"Students who ride the bus should always stop, look and listen before crossing the street," said Mr. Reddick. "They should always make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street, which is a good rule of thumb for all pedestrians."

Riding the bus isn't the only method of transportation used by Incirlik students. Many will walk and ride bikes. Drivers should use caution in housing areas and around the schools in the mornings and afternoons.

"Drivers need to be especially cautious near the school," said Mr. Reddick. "Be on the look out for crossing guards and school bus monitors."

The NSC Web site offers the following tips for students walking and biking to school: 

-- Mind all traffic signals and the crossing guards - never cross the street against a light even if no traffic is coming. 
-- Walk your bike through intersections. 
-- Walk with a buddy. 
-- Wear reflective material ... it makes you more visible to drivers.

Wing safety officials urge parents to discuss good safety practices prior to the school year no matter the student's age.

"Go over safety with your kids. Don't assume your teens know this information," said Sergeant Edmonds. "They are probably more concerned with other things, but a good five-minute sit down will do them good."

For additional school safety tips, parents and students can visit http://www.nsc.org/mem/youth/8_school.htm. In addition, the safety office will have brochures available at both schools with further safety tips. (Contributions made to this article by Staff Sgt. Oshawn Jefferson)