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School Safety: Everyone's responsibility

Courtesy of DeRidder Police Department
The DeRidder Police Department is reminding residents about school safety.

DERIDDER — The DeRidder Police Department is reminding residents and parents of traffic laws aimed at school safety.

DeRidder Police Chief Craig Richard said he understands residents are dealing with a slew of stressors this year, but they cannot become distracted or lax when it comes to school safety and children.

“We just want to remind everybody - monitor the signs and monitor your surroundings. Be patient when the lines are long. Follow the directions of the crossing guards and officers if they are there. Be very safe. Our children depend on it,” Richard said.

Corporal Amanda Westmoreland is the city’s School Resource Officer. She spends a lot of time at schools during drop-offs and pickups.

Very often, Westmoreland will see parents on cell phones while waiting in their vehicles in the lines. Like on the roadway, cell phone use is against the law in the line. Someone speaking or texting on a cell phone can easily become distracted and unaware of their surroundings, and that is when accidents occur.

“Cell phones are prohibited and you still constantly see people talking on their phone or texting. We’re trying to be understanding to the hurricanes and COVID, but we have to make sure the laws are being followed,” Westmoreland said.

“Safety is paramount and everybody has to do their part,” Richard added.

Speeding and distracted driving are the top two reasons why tickets are issued in school zones.

“You are driving a 4,000-or-6,000-pound vehicle, and you have to be fully aware of your surroundings,” Richard said.

Another reminder: Watch the crosswalks. Richard said motorists should drive with their eyes down the road, not right in front of their bumper. And always make sure pedestrians see you.

Pedestrians need to be aware of their surroundings, as well. Do not use a cell phone and walk.

“Don’t think those painted lines are going to protect you,” Richard said. “The responsibility falls on the pedestrian — and the driver.”

Westmoreland said another issue she has seen is parents with too few seatbelts in their vehicle to safely accommodate all of their children. Also make sure car seats are properly installed.

For questions on school safety, you can e-mail Westmoreland at awestmoreland@cityofderidder.org. In addition, Beauregard Parish Sheriff’s Office Deputy Mike Halter is a certified child seat install instructor and can answer questions about the proper installation of car seats. E-mail him at mhalter533@aol.com or call 337-460-5443.