BEWARE OF OTHER DRIVERS

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It is always important to remember that the road belongs to everyone, and that the motorist has to beware of other motorists on the

road. Together with darkness and rainy conditions, other road-users may be regarded as one of the commonest hazards. Learn to recognize potentially dangerous drivers and keep well clear of them. No matter how severely you may be provoked, keep your temper and resist the temptation to retaliate – it may result in anything from a collision to a shooting-match.

    The AA urges motorists to be especially wary when driving near any of the following:  
  • Any vehicle in which the driver’s range of vision is limited – such as a fully-laden pick-up with no side mirror.
  • Any vehicle that is dirty, rusty, missing parts or with a badly smoking exhaust – it is probably in poor overall mechanical condition.
  • A truck with a badly-packed or unsecured load, or a car with a bulky load on the roof rack – the load, or part of it, may come adrift.
  • A car containing active children and pets – the driver may be accident-prone or habitually careless.
  • A car with stickers on the windows, piles of luggage, a large number of passengers or hanging clothes – the driver’s vision is probably obscured.
  • A vehicle with a driver who does not appear to be giving his full attention to the road.
  • A driver who obstructs and does not let you pass – slow down and let him get far ahead.
  • A vehicle that “wanders” about the road – it could be faulty steering or suspension, or the driver may be drunk or sleepy.

There are times of the day, and of the week, when accidents occur more frequently:

  • Between dusk and dawn.
  • During morning and evening peak periods.
  • At “closing time” for bars, hotels and clubs.
  • In the afternoon when children come out of schools.
  • After large public gatherings, such as rugby matches or race meetings.
  • Late in the week and at weekends when the use of alcohol increases.
  • On public holidays and weekends when many motorists are paying more attention to sightseeing than to proper driving.

Advice provided by the Automobile Association(AA)

Avoiding Pedestrians

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images (79)Many road fatalities are caused by accidents wherein pedestrians are involved. Many of these fatalities may be prevented through the application of some basic principles. The following safety hints should be applied:
  • Be aware that many informal settlements are situated alongside main roads and that there are no formal points of crossing or pedestrian bridges.
  • Do not speed near these settlements but be prepared to slow down.
  • Do not assume that you have been seen.
  • Be on the lookout for small children
  • Avoid passing vehicles in the vicinity of these settlements and especially in hazardous driving conditions such as heavy rain or night driving.
  • If visibility is bad, slow down – avoid driving when your vision is impaired either by strong rain or the blinding headlights of approaching vehicles.
  • Be on the lookout for pedestrians walking at the side of the road with their backs towards you.
  • Be aware of intoxicated pedestrians – especially over weekends and near informal settlements.
  • Be careful near places where busses or taxi’s appear to stand next to the road – passengers might suddenly decide to cross the road!
  • Always be ready for the unexpected!

Things to remember as a driver:

  • You can encounter pedestrians anytime and anywhere – even in places where they are not supposed to be found.
  • Pedestrians can be very hard to see – especially in bad weather or at night. You must keep a lookout and slow down if you can’t see clearly.
  • Stop for pedestrians who are in a crosswalk, even if it is not marked. When you stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk, stop well back so that drivers in the other lanes can also see the pedestrian in time to stop.
  • Cars stopped in the street may be stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross. Do not pass if there is any doubt!
  • Don’t assume that pedestrians see you or that they will act predictably. They may be physically or mentally impaired – or drunk!
  • When you are turning, you often will have to wait for a “gap” in traffic. Beware that while you are watching for that “gap”, pedestrians may have moved into your intended path. Don’t run someone down.
  • Be especially attentive around schools and in neighbourhoods where children are active. Drive there like you would like people to drive in front of your own home!

Vehicle Maintenance and Repair

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images (69)Road Safety requires not only driver fitness but vehicle fitness. A well maintained vehicle not only speaks volumes about the owner, but will protect the owner on the road. Many accidents caused by vehicle failure can be prevented and many stranded motorists face the preventable risk of criminals next to the road. It is important that we address the importance of vehicle maintenance for road safety and create awareness of preventative steps in properly maintaining our vehicles.

Importance of effective maintenance

Effective and proper maintenance will provide many benefits to the vehicle owner, including:

  • Saving fuel and money – mechanical systems of the vehicle will affect fuel efficiency
  • Reducing long-term maintenance costs
  • Minimize harmful exhaust emissions and protect the environment
  • Increase reliability of your vehicle and limit the risk of vehicle breakdown
  • Increase the resale value of your vehicle

Basic Maintenance of your Vehicle 

It is best to leave the servicing of your vehicle in the hands of trained automotive professionals / mechanics. They have the knowledge and tools to diagnose and correct problems and to put you on the road to safe, fuel-efficient driving. Preventive maintenance by the driver might however also help avoid vehicle break- down. This should be thorough, regular and frequent enough to meet the manufacturer’s guidelines and common sense.

Aspects that require maintenance are:

  • Air filter: Check monthly and replace it when it becomes dirty or as part of a tune -up. It is easy to reach, right under the big metal ‘lid’, in a carbureted engine; or in a rectangular box at the forward end of the air in a duct hose assembly.
  • Alternator
  • Battery: Remove the earth strap (usually the negative pole) on a battery to avoid activating the starter if you accidentally touch an open wire when repairing the starter or working in the battery area.
  • Brakes / Brake Fluid: Check the brake fluid monthly. First wipe dirt from the brake master cylinder reservoir lid. Pry off the retainer clip and remove the lid or unscrew the plastic lid, depending on which type your vehicle has. If you need fluid, add the improved type and check for possible leaks throughout the system. Do not overfill.
  • Carburetor
  • Distributor
  • Engine Oil: Neglecting to replace worn-out oil results in poor engine performance, higher fuel consumption and possibly severe engine damage. To prevent engine deterioration, it is imperative that the engine maintains the amount of oil it is programmed to receive. Check the oil after every fill up. Remove the dipstick, wipe it clean. Insert it fully and remove it again. If it is low, add oil. To maintain peak performance, the oil should be changed every 3 months. When doing general maintenance or repairs never over fill the sump with oil as this will prematurely damage the oil seals and result in engine oil leaks. When fitting a new oil filter, a light smear of engine oil on the oil filter rubber seal will ensure the vital sealing surface requirement when hand tightening the oil filters housing to engine mating block.
  • Exhaust & Silencer Exhaust: Have the exhaust system checked if it sounds noisy or rattles. Look underneath for loose or broken exhaust clamps and supports. Check for holes in muffler or pipes. Replace the rusted or damaged parts.
  • Fan & Belt: Inspect belts and hoses smoothly. Replace glazed, worn or frayed belts. Replace bulging, rotten or brittle hoses and tighten clamps. If a hose looks bad, or feels too soft or too hard, it should be replaced. When replacing a missing or perished fan belt ensure that the tension setting at the longest run between the engines pulleys is about 10 to 12mm (Free tension play)
  • Front Wheel CV Joints/ Wheel bearing kits: When undertaking repairs to wheel bearing kits use only one sachet of grease for both wheel applications keep the other grease pack for future use on your vehicle – one pack is more than sufficient to pack both wheels
  • Fuel Line & Fuel Pump
  • Gearbox Oil
  • High –Tension (HT) leads
  • Ignition Coil
  • Lights: Check that all lights are working and replace any broken or burned out bulbs. It is important for the lights to be properly focused, for your own and for the oncoming vehicle’s safety. Travel on low beam so that it does not obstruct your view instead of helping you along.
  • Radiator
  • Water: If your engine uses water for cooling, take care to ensure that it is regularly changed. Water can also be used for cleaning the windshield.
  • Rear Wheel Drive Shaft
  • Shock Absorbers: Shock absorbers should always be replaced in pairs (or all four) ensuring that both the front and/or rear shocks are in the same condition and operate on equal settings on the same axle.
  • Spark Plugs:  In an attempt to rectify erratic idling after replacing your vehicles spark plugs, ensure that the plug leads are secure on both ends of the plug lead and that the leads are not perished.
  • Tyres- Mechanical irregularities will show up early on tyre wear patterns. It is important to have professionals check your wheel alignment and balance.  (The following mechanical components can lead to irregular tyre wear – Grabbing or unequal brakes, Spread axles, bent axles, sagging axles, Twisted or cracked chassis, Worn or loose wheel bearings, damaged or worn suspension, damaged or worn wheel assembly, worn bushes or ball joints, damaged of worn steering components, etc.)
  • Tyre Pressure: The required amount of air pressure needs to be strictly maintained if your car is to get the right mileage and pick-up.
  • Clutch Kits: Worn individual clutch plates pressure plates and/or release bearings should not be seen as quick fix loose unit repairs. Replacing all the corresponding components, pressure plate, clutch plate and thrust bearing in kit form is highly recommended; these components operate in conjunction with each other and have equal mileage and wear evident, replacing one only loose clutch component is a risk that could prove expensive and time consuming.
  • Wiper Blades: It is recommended you change your wiper blades every six months, even if they haven’t been used very often. The rubber deteriorates over time when exposed to the atmosphere.
  • Seat Belts:  Keep seat belts clean to prevent dirt and moisture from damaging the mechanism.
  • Keep your vehicle clean, inside and out.

There are many ways to perform maintenance of the vehicle – You can start from simple things and allow professionals to do the more technical maintenance.

Bad Driving Is Genetic

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picture11-300x225Bad drivers may in part have their genes to blame, suggests a new study by UC Irvine neuroscientists.

People with a particular gene variant performed more than 20 percent worse on a driving test than people without it — and a follow-up test a few days later yielded similar results. About 30 percent of Americans have the variant.

“These people make more errors from the get-go, and they forget more of what they learned after time away,” said Dr. Steven Cramer, neurology associate professor and senior author of the study published recently in the journal Cerebral Cortex.

This gene variant limits the availability of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor during activity. BDNF keeps memory strong by supporting communication among brain cells and keeping them functioning optimally. When a person is engaged in a particular task, BDNF is secreted in the brain area connected with that activity to help the body respond.

Previous studies have shown that in people with the variant, a smaller portion of the brain is stimulated when doing a task than in those with a normal BDNF gene. People with the variant also don’t recover as well after a stroke. Given these differences, the UCI scientists wondered: Could the variant affect an activity such as driving?

“We wanted to study motor behavior, something more complex than finger-tapping,” said Stephanie McHughen, graduate student and lead author of the study. “Driving seemed like a good choice because it has a learning curve and it’s something most people know how to do.”

The driving test was taken by 29 people — 22 without the gene variant and seven with it. They were asked to drive 15 laps on a simulator that required them to learn the nuances of a track programmed to have difficult curves and turns. Researchers recorded how well they stayed on the course over time. Four days later, the test was repeated.

Results showed that people with the variant did worse on both tests than the other participants, and they remembered less the second time. “Behavior derives from dozens and dozens of neurophysiologic events, so it’s somewhat surprising this exercise bore fruit,” Cramer said.

The gene variant isn’t always bad, though. Studies have found that people with it maintain their usual mental sharpness longer than those without it when neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and multiple sclerosis are present.

“It’s as if nature is trying to determine the best approach,” Cramer said. “If you want to learn a new skill or have had a stroke and need to regenerate brain cells, there’s evidence that having the variant is not good. But if you’ve got a disease that affects cognitive function, there’s evidence it can act in your favor. The variant brings a different balance between flexibility and stability.”

A test to determine whether someone has the gene variant is not commercially available.

“I’d be curious to know the genetics of people who get into car crashes,” Cramer said. “I wonder if the accident rate is higher for drivers with the variant.”

In addition to Cramer and McHughen, Paul Rodriguez, Laura Marchal-Crespo and Vincent Procaccio of UCI worked on the study, along with researchers from the University of Florida. The National Institutes of Health funded the study.

Driving facts

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images (6)images (7)Driving is something that nearly all of us do at one time or another and is one of the greatest causes of frustration known to humankind. I am sure we all think we are good, safe drivers and definitely better than the average person on the road.

Well, you may be surprised to know that 90% of us think we are better than the average driver!

So here is a list of some interesting facts about driving and driver behaviour, some of which might even surprise you…

  1. Drivers make 15 decisions per kilometre.
  2. Most people want texting while driving banned – but most people have done it at some time.
  3. Cars spend 95% of their time parked.
  4. The second leading cause of distraction-related crashes (behind fatigue) is drivers looking at other crashes.
  5. The most fatalities come from single cars running off the road.
  6. More pedestrians are killed on crosswalks than by jaywalking.
  7. Morning rush hour is twice as safe as evening rush hour.
  8. You have a 1 in 100 chance of dying in a car accident in your lifetime.
  9. Groups with the highest crash risk: Students, followed by doctors.
  10. People driving alone drive more aggressively than those with passengers.
  11. One study in America placed “Black Panther” bumper stickers on the cars of 15 drivers who had never received tickets. 2 weeks later the 15 drivers had amassed 33 tickets.
  12. Men honk more than women but both sexes honk at women more.
  13. For every 1 minute a highway lane is blocked, 4-5 minutes of delay are created.
  14. Driving to work alone is on average 1.5 minutes faster than all other transportation options.
  15. Trying to find the “best” parking space will not place you any closer than the “pick a row, closest space” method.
  16. Statistically, rural 2 lane roads are the most dangerous.
  17. Drivers take longer to leave a parking space when someone else is waiting.
  18. Drivers pass closer to bicyclists wearing helmets than those not wearing them.
  19. 90% of drivers think they are better than the average driver.
  20. The more time people spend driving, the incidence of skin cancer on their right side increases.

Smash-and-Grab

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smash nd grabWhat is a smash and grab crime?

A smash and grab criminal turns a pleasant drive into a nightmare when criminals are pouncing on unsuspecting drivers. The criminal act is usually characterized by smashing through some sort of barrier (e.g. vehicle window) while the car is stationary at traffic lights or stuck in slow moving traffic and grabbing something of value (e.g. jackets, handbags, laptops, etc).

A smash and grab usually plays on the element of speed and surprise  -The violent smashing of the window at the passenger side places the motorist in a few moments of silent paralysis – just enough to get hold of the valuables and flee the scene!

These car burglaries can be expensive, from the cost of repairs to the vehicle and windows to replacing your belongings. The victims will most likely be traumatized and feel victimized for quite some time.

What is being targeted?

The thieves are usually after valuables which they can easily identify from outside the vehicle and sell as easily once removed from the possession of the motorists. Items targeted include:

  • Purses, hand bags and wallets
  • Laptop bags, briefcases and backpacks
  • Shopping bags
  • Cell phones, MP3 players and tablets
  • Loose change and CDs
  • Keys

Who are most vulnerable?

  • The victims are most often single drivers with belongings on the passenger seat.
  • Criminals tend to focus on female drivers well knowing that they are less likely to chase after them.
  • Drivers who are distracted are most vulnerable – those busy on the cellular phone or with a cigarette in the hand.
  • Vehicles left unattended away from the crowds and with valuables visible are easy targets for a quick smash-and-gra

Advice on preventing smash-and-grabs

Even though it is not always possible to avoid the so called “hotspots” where these criminals prey on unsuspecting motorists, it is possible to reduce the risk of becoming a smash and grab victim. Motorists can make these burglaries more difficult. Smash-and-grab car burglars don’t want difficult challenges and would rather prefer to move on when they suspect hurdles to the swift execution of these crimes.

Safe Driving

  • Lock all your doors and close the windows when driving – Never open vehicle windows or doors for strangers.
  • Avoid opening your windows or getting involved in discussions with street vendors or anyone handing out flyers.
  • Be constantly on the lookout for suspicious looking characters.
  • Always be conscious of your surroundings and remain alert when coming to an intersection or stopping your vehicle.
  • Be wary of people standing at intersections – They may be innocent but perpetrators mix with these people while waiting for an opportunity to pounce.
  • If you encounter obstacles such as rocks or tyres do not get out of your vehicle to remove them -immediately reverse and drive off in the opposite direction.
  • If it’s late at night, slow down well in advance so that the light changes green by the time you reach the intersection.
  • Leave a gap between you and the car in front of you to give you room to escape (i.e. drive away from the scene), if anything should happen.
  • Be especially wary whenever you see broken glass lying on the road. If the pieces of glass are still scattered across the road, chances are that a smash and grab occurred just recently.

Texting Drivers, Tempting Fate

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text drivingIt doesn’t take much research to figure out that driving and text-messaging is not a wise combination. But a new report is among the first to demonstrate just how distracting it can be to multitask behind the wheel. The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute conducted several high-tech, “naturalistic” studies monitoring truck drivers by video camera as they covered more than 6 million miles. (The authors have said they believe the results are applicable to all drivers). While the report has not formally been released, its initial findings showed that drivers who took their eyes off the road for any of a variety of activities, such as answering a phone call, were more likely to get into a crash or near crash. But by far, the most dangerous—and potentially lethal—activity was text-messaging.

Highlight Reel:

1. Texting drivers could prompt a “crash epidemic”: Truck drivers were 23.2 times more likely to get into a crash or near crash than drivers who weren’t distracted. This correlates to the length of time a texting driver’s eyes were off the road — almost five seconds, long enough to cover a football field at highway speeds. Given the increasing popularity of texting — it’s grown tenfold in the last three years, by one count — it could swiftly become an enormous peril to road safety.

2. Talking on cell phones is not especially hazardous — but dialing them is: Contrary to some conventional wisdom, the Virginia Tech study found that truck drivers did not have a higher crash risk when they simply spoke on the phone. But any time they took their eyes off the road — to reach for the phone or to dial it — the risk rose, by as much as 6.7 times. One potential consequence: vaunted headsets and hands-free devices promoted for automobiles may not offer much safety, as they don’t address the riskiest elements of cell-phone use.

3. Lawmakers should ban texting while driving, and all cell-phone use for teen drivers: The study warns that danger lurks as today’s text-happy teens become a larger proportion of drivers on the road. Drawing on earlier research, they also report that teens are four times more likely to get into an accident related to overall cell-phone use than adult drivers.

The Lowdown:

This research confirms what common sense already tells us — texting behind the wheel is a really bad idea. Experience suggests that irresponsible drivers don’t particularly care what the law has to say.

Drunk Driving in South Africa – Laws

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Drunk driving in South Africa is not to be taken lightly and drinking and driving is a very serious offence. The gravity of drunken driving charges should be enough to frighten anyone away from driving drunk, but there can also be far more grave repercussions that can occur when drivers don’t watch their blood alcohol limit – these can be fatal consequences.

Local Drunk Driving Laws in South Africa

Any person driving on South African roads should be familiar with the local drunk driving laws in South Africa. Here’s a summary of the laws to make it easier for you:

1. No person on a public road shall -

Occupy a driver’s seat of a motor vehicle, the engine of which is running, while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or a drug having a narcotic effect.

2. No person on a public road shall -

Occupy a driver’s seat of a motor vehicle, the engine of which is running, while the concentration of alcohol in any specimen of blood taken from his or her body is not less than 0.05 grams per 100 millilitres.

3. The two-hour rule -

According to the National Traffic Act 1996, if in any prosecution for a contravention of the provisions of subsection (2), it is proved that the concentration of alcohol in any specimen of blood taken from any part of the body of the person concerned was not less than 0.05 grams per 100 millilitres at any time within two hours after the alleged offence, it shall be presumed, until the contrary is proved, that such concentration was not less than 0.05 grams per 100 millilitres of blood at the time of the alleged offence.

Implications of Being Caught Drunk Driving in South Africa

Perhaps you’ve been “lucky” up to now and you have not been caught drinking and driving; because you think that you are capable of driving drunk. But what are the implications if you do get caught?

If you’re found guilty of drunk driving in South Africa you could face up to 6 years in jail. You could also be liable for fines of up to R120 000 and your driver’s license may be suspended. You will also have a criminal record which can have serious ramifications for the rest of your life. Of course, the worst case scenario is that you could kill someone else on the road, your loved ones or yourself.

Solution to drunk driving in South Africa

There is some good news for those folks who are out on the town and find they’re unable to drive home. If you’re worried about driving your vehicle back to your hotel drunk (which you should be), ask Drive South Africa to book you a car with a supplier partnered with a designated driver service. This means that you won’t have to drive your car rental when intoxicated and breach your car hire contract.

HUMAN ERROR AS MAJOR CAUSE OF ACCIDENTS

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Driver fitness as an essential element in road safety is highlighted by international studies on the cause of most accidents. Driver Fitness can be summarized as the physical and mental ability of the driver to enhance safe driving.

The international study concluded that human error was the sole cause in 57% of all accidents and was a contributing factor in over 90%. In contrast, only 2.4% were due solely to mechanical fault and only 4.7% were caused by environmental factors. 

Dr Green and Dr Senders discussed in an article titled “Human Error in Road Accidents” the reasons why humans make so many driving errors and they believe the answer is to be found in the inherent limitations of human information processing. Humans must rely on three fallible mental functions: perception, attention and memory. 

Research has also shown that accidents occur for one of three principle reasons. The first is perceptual error. Sometimes critical information was below the threshold for seeing – the light was too dim, the driver was blinded by glare, or the pedestrian’s clothes had low contrast. In other cases, the driver made a perceptual misjudgment (a curve’s radius or another car’s speed or distance). The second, and far more common cause, is that the critical information was detectable but that the driver failed to attend/notice because his mental resources were focussed elsewhere. Often times, a driver will claim that s/he did not “see” a plainly visible pedestrian or car. This is entirely possible because much of our information processing occurs outside of awareness. We may be less likely to perceive an object if we are looking directly at it than if it falls outside the center of the visual field. This “inattentional blindness” phenomenon is doubtless the cause of many accidents. 

Lastly, the driver may correctly process the information but fail to choose the correct response (“I’m skidding, so I’ll turn away from the skid”) or make the correct decision yet fail to carry it out (“I meant to hit the break, but I hit the gas”). 

In South Africa pedestrian fatalities have become a major contributor to road deaths. More than a third of childhood pedestrian deaths occurred over weekends and this has raised the question about drivers’ competence in terms of alertness, speeding, reaction time, and blood alcohol level. It is thus important that the Road Safety Strategy also focuses on the competence of our drivers to be alert and their ability both physically and mentally to make the right decision whilst driving.

Scholar Patrol

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Background Info to Scholar Patrol

Scholar Patrol is an important part of road safety education and essential to enhancing the safety of our scholars at their schools. Not only does it regulate traffic, improve speed calming and facilitate safe crossing of the road but also instills in the minds of our young pedestrians an awareness of the importance of road safety.

The Safety Patrol Program was started by the American Automobile Association (AAA) in 1920. Boys, when they reached the sixth grade, would be screened for the proper character traits and then trained in safety and put to use.

Why do we need scholar patrol?

  • Each year, children travel to and from school almost 200 times.
  • Dangerous traffic congestion occurs around schools with so many parents dropping their children off in the morning and picking them up after school.
  • Traffic Authorities, school teachers and principals recognize that this congestion creates the most dangerous location on a child’s journey to and from school.
  • Scholar Patrol performs a very important and responsible public service by controlling traffic and by safeguarding scholar pedestrians Student patrollers guide fellow students and prevent them from entering traffic when it is unsafe.

They were also to set a good example and encourage all students to observe the rules of safety. They had to report for duty on time with the proper equipment and attire on. They had to report all infractions of the rules to their superiors. They had to provide assistance to other Patrol members when necessary. Know and enforce all safety walking and crossing rules. Lastly, they had to attend regular meetings that would discuss problem areas of traffic and street crossings.

Benefits of Scholar Patrol / School Patrol

  • The Scholar Patrol program benefits the school, the community and the student safety patrollers.
  • The program provides quality training and recognition for student safety patroller’s efforts.
  • Apart from providing safer access to schools at nearby crossings, this program inspires patrollers to develop positive relationships with peers and authority figures and develop leadership skills, teamwork, maturity and a sense of responsibility.
  • The Scholar Patrol helps foster closer ties with the community and increases the school’s visibility in the community.
  • Student patrollers are visible ambassadors for their school and assist both parents and their children at school crossings.