SIDNEY — The flashing lights on yellow school buses are greeting residents are they going to work in the morning and returning home in the afternoon. And with those flashing lights is a reminder from Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart to be aware of your surrounds as children get on and off the school bus or are walking to school.
“Some schools have started and some will be starting soon,” said Lenhart during his weekly interview. “And parents will experience a quiet house.”
But with the quiet house comes worries about their child’s safe arrival at school each day. Some will ride a bus, others will walk, while other will be driven to school by their parents, grandparents or older siblings.
“We have 10,000 students in kindergarten through grade 12 in Shelby County,” said Lenhart.”There are 56-plus million students nationwide. There are 480,000 buses on the road across the nation.”
Lenhart said 36 teenagers were injured in Shelby County last year while traveling to and from school. One hundred children were killed across the nation during an collision with a vehicle. and half of those collisions happened in a school zone.
He added 25,000 people are injured in school zone accidents annually.
“I was downtown yesterday and a kid walked in front of my vehicle,” said Lenhart. “He was on a cellphone and not paying attention to his surroundings. One in five involved in a pedestrian accident are talking on their cellphone or using other electronic devises.”
Lenhart said both vehicle drivers and pedestrians are responsible for school zone crashes.
“You must use caution in school zones,” said Lenhart. “Drivers must be aware of kids who are moving around. They (kids) are going to be coming in and out of the area.
“Eighty percent of all children are dropped off outside the designated area,” he said. “If you’re in a crossing area, cars are everywhere. Take a few more minutes to drop your children off properly. And slow down when you are in a school zone.”
Lenhart is offering some trips to drivers:
• Assume children are present when you drive
• Obey the school zone speed limits
• Never use your cellphone while driving
• Drop the students off in the designated area
• Never pass a school bus
“We going to have a deputy ride in a bus and the bus will be followed by a deputy in a marked car,” said Lenhart. “We want to get other driver’s attention and make sure they are not passing a school bus that has its stop arm out and lights on.”
Tips for students and parents include:
• Cross streets in the cross walk area
• Look both ways when crossing the street
• Don’t look down at the screen of your electronics
• Take off your headphones or ear buds
And before going to school each day, students should have a good night’s rest and eat a good breakfast, he said.
For the child entering school for the first time, Lenhart recommends parents go through various scenarios with their children that they might experience at school.
“Prepare your child on what to expect at school,” said Lenhart. “Answer all their questions about going to school. Role play with them. This is a routine they will have to get used to.
“We hope everyone has a safe year and have fun at school,” he said.
Lenhart also commented on the Attorney General Dave Yost’s opinion concerning the minimal jail standards in the state of Ohio.
“Our jail capacity is 188 inmates,” said Lenhart.”If you go over the standard, you’ll face liability issues and other problems will come knocking on your door.
“The Sheriff’s Association, he said, did an inventory of beds open for rent in Ohio jails,” he said. “There are only 90 beds available. As of last Friday, we have 10 inmates from Scioto County and four from Darke County. We have approximately 160 inmates today.”
Yost’s opinion, said Lenhart, will have an impact on the bed and cell expenses statewide.
“Bed space is at a premium,” said Lenhart. “But we’re ahead of the game. We can use our open beds to generate money. Last year between federal inmates and inmates from other counties, we generated $1.2 million.”
Work programs, the STAR House and putting a person under house arrest with an ankle bracelet are other ways to deal with bed shortages, he said.
There are 80 county jails in the state.Some counties have united to build one jail to serve several counties, he said.
Lenhart said the attorney general’s office also cut the DARE program and school resource officer funding throughout the state by 35 percent.
The writer conducts a weekly interview to update readers with news from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, 555 Gearhart Road, Sidney.