Students in South Carolina are back in school, which means motorists accustomed to weeks without school bus traffic and flashing lights for school zones also must return to class.

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It’s time for drivers to reacquaint themselves with the rules of the road for the school year. Lives are at stake.

With so many students heading to their bus stops and walking around school zones, the South Carolina Department of Public Safety is reminding drivers to be extremely cautious while driving.

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The S.C. Highway Patrol says historically, the majority of collisions around schools occur during the 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Law enforcement will be out monitoring school areas and bus zones between 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Approximately 815 students in the nation die annually and more than 150,000 are injured during travel between school and home –statistics that do not include special activity trips and other school related journeys.

The SCHP says troopers will be focusing on speed, aggressive driving and safety belts as they patrol in school zones and along bus routes.

While caution in school zones should be the norm, motorists must be aware of the laws, particularly with regard to knowing when to stop for a school bus.

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By law, children no longer cross multilane highways to board buses. Correspondingly, state law no longer requires drivers on a highway with two or more lanes on each side to stop when traveling in the opposing direction of the bus. Drivers on a four-lane (or more) highway or private road who meet a stopped school bus should slow down and proceed with caution.

But there are times when a driver always must stop.

* When traveling behind a bus that activates its stop arm.

* When traveling behind a bus that is flashing amber or red lights.

* When approaching, on a two-lane road, a stopped school bus with flashing red lights from the opposite direction.

After stopping for a stopped school bus, drivers must not proceed until the bus resumes motion or the flashing red lights have been turned off. The fine for passing a stopped school bus can be as much as $1,000 and up to 30 days in jail for a first offense.

The price for not obeying the law could be much higher in terms of injury and the loss of life. Safety first should be South Carolina’s motto at all times on its deadly roads, but at no time is extra caution needed more than around schools, buses and students.

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