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Traffic hassles return as metro Atlanta schools open this week

School buses begin rolling across metro Atlanta this week – and with them, the longer commutes many drivers had given up for the summer.

Traffic safety advocates have some advice: Take a deep breath, slow down and watch out for children.

“With school back in session, we will see an increase in the number of motorists and pedestrians on our roadways,” said Garrett Townsend, public affairs director for AAA in Georgia. He urged drivers to use “extra vigilance and patience so that everyone gets to their destination safely.”

Henry and Rockdale counties kicked off the back-to-school season Monday, with Atlanta, Cherokee, Cobb, Decatur and Newton schools back in session Wednesday. Other schools follow later this week and next week.

After a summer of relatively easy commutes, the back-to-school grind will cost drivers some extra time.

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Interstate traffic volumes hardly change during the summer, according to the Georgia Department of Transportation. But GDOT spokeswoman Natalie Dale said traffic eases on local streets because there are no school zones and buses to slow things down. And parents may not have to drop off their kids at school, saving time on their way to work.

With school back, motorists will no longer be driving on Easy Street. Dale urged them to remain alert.

“We all kind of get into that summer slump, where we get into autopilot,” she said. “We need to turn it off with children back in school.”

AAA recommends drivers eliminate distractions like cell phones – glance at your phone for even a few seconds and you may not spot a child darting across the road. Georgia’s new distracted driving law, which took effect July 1, prohibits motorists from holding their phones while driving.

AAA also reminds drivers to slow down in school zones and come to a complete stop at crosswalks and stop signs.

School districts warn drivers to stop for school buses stopped alongside the road, as required by Georgia law. Many districts have bus cameras to catch offenders, and violations result in a fine of up to $1,000. Anyone under age 21 convicted of an offense will have their license suspended.

Schools also remind parents to teach their children to remain alert while crossing the street and at bus stops.

The AJC has updated The Ultimate Atlanta School Guide to bring you the latest information on school safety ratings, student demographics and more. Research schools in your community and across the state at schools.myajc.com.

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