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Editorial: Civics 2016: Obey new law of the road

Back-to-school lessons this year for all ages includes one in civics: Minnesota recently enacted the Vulnerable User Law, which increases the penalty for causing a fatality or great bodily harm to another individual while committing another serious driving offense.

Such offenses include driving while distracted, so texting and talking on the phone immediately come to mind.

Of course, everyone using the area roadways — whether walking, bicycling or driving — needs to pay special attention this time of year. Most children are in school during the day, so that means they are out and about in greater numbers early in the morning and later in the day. With diminishing autumn daylight, the risks increase.

Motorists especially must increase their awareness of vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians and bicyclists, in school zones. Pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle traffic around schools increased this week as students returned to the classroom.

Motorists, look for children and adults alike at intersections, in crosswalks and along roadways. When you see them, remember three Minnesota rules of the road:

•Stop for pedestrians within the crosswalk.

•Leave a 3-foot clearance for bicyclists,

•Pedestrians, use crosswalks and sidewalks. Yes, walk the extra 10 seconds to the corner. Then look left, right and left again before crossing the street. When no sidewalks are available, walk on the left side facing traffic.

Bicyclists, use your hand signals. Wear a helmet. Use a light. Instead of weaving in and out of traffic, ride in a straight line. Be predictable.

Parents, outfit your children in light, bright clothing to increase the odds of being seen in dim light.

And please, everyone, put away the cellphone whether you’re walking, biking or driving. How many moms and dads did you see on the phone while waiting to drop their children off for the first day of school? Too many. Maybe you were one of them.

Let’s all do our part in ensuring a safe and productive school year for all, but especially the most vulnerable of us on the road.

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