Burrell School 1st Day Foxboro

A student waves to friends on a school bus on the first day of school at the Burrell Elementary School in Foxboro Tuesday.

The return of Foxboro schoolchildren to local classrooms this week serves as a timely reminder for all of our neighbors to be alert and extra careful while driving — especially during peak traffic hours before and after school.

With Foxboro playing host to five district schools and a regional charter school, that advice may seem obvious. But accidents happen in the blink of an eye — and after several months of easy, summertime commutes and relaxed scheduling it is never more important for motorists to slow down, take a deep breath, keep their heads on a swivel and be on the lookout for youngsters confronting new surroundings and routines.

Once on school property, building administrators have developed extensive protocols to safely manage the daily confusion stemming from approaching buses, drop-offs from private vehicles and students arriving on foot or on bicycles. But getting there can be another story.

Most importantly, give yourself extra time when commuting to work or school (if dropping children off) — especially throughout September when families are still adjusting to new, hectic schedules and tend to run late. Even if you are on time, chances are others aren’t. Traffic always increases immediately after Labor Day, and there’s always that unexpected freight train to gum up the works.

Multi-tasking might be a virtue in the workplace, but not while driving. Put the cell phone down — it’s the law, after all. When approaching or traversing school zones, pay attention to signage, obey speed limits and pay attention to the directions of crossing guard monitors.

The greatest risk to a child isn’t riding a bus, but approaching or leaving one — so school bus safety can’t be overstated. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, most children who lose their lives in school bus-related incidents are 4 to 7 years old, walking, and are either hit by the bus or by a motorist illegally passing a stopped bus.

Yellow flashing lights mean a bus is preparing to stop, with students likely waiting to get on or parents waiting nearby to pick up their children.

Red flashing lights mean stop — at least 20 feet behind the bus — because children are getting on or off. Stay stopped until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop-arm is withdrawn and the bus begins moving.

By virtue of its multi-town enrollment and entrance configuration on busy Central Street, logistics at the Foxboro Regional Charter School always will be challenging — so, too, at Foxboro High School with hundreds of students driving personal vehicles. But accidents can happen at any time or place if people aren’t careful.

Remember, the safety and welfare of all of our students is precious. And a little extra caution, with a few extra minutes tacked on for good measure, is a small price to pay to avert a tragedy.