For thousands of children, school is back in session.
They will get there by bus, in cars, by walking or on bicycles and nothing is more important than their safe travels. However, according to the Transportation Research Board, about 100 children are killed each year while walking to or from school and about 25,000 are injured.
Distracted driving is a safety concern throughout the year, but the start of a new school season brings unique conditions that can easily cause drivers to become distracted behind the wheel. For many families, busy mornings that involve getting children dressed and ready for school on time create situations that make it challenging to fully focus on driving.
“The start of the school year is a particularly challenging time for parents because of new routines and increased traffic,” said Amy Stracke, managing director of traffic safety advocacy for AAA – The Auto Club Group and Executive Director of the Auto Club Group Traffic Safety Foundation. “We encourage anyone taking children to school, and all drivers, to establish habits that help them to stay focused on the task of driving.”
AAA – The Auto Club Group and its Auto Club Group Traffic Safety Foundation — through their School’s Open – Drive Carefully campaign — are reminding motorists that school season is starting soon and that it’s important to avoid distractions and use caution when driving near school zones, especially during drop-off and pick-up times.
From 2007 to 2016, more school-age pedestrians were killed from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. and from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. than any other hours of the day, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
“With school back in session, we will see an increase in the number of motorists and pedestrians on our roadways,” said Matt Nasworthy, Florida public affairs director, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “AAA’s School’s Open – Drive Carefully campaign reminds us of the need for extra vigilance and patience so that everyone gets to their destination safely.”
AAA recommends drivers observe the following guidelines to help keep children safe:
- Eliminate distractions. Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing. Children can move quickly; crossing the road unexpectedly or emerging suddenly between two parked cars. Reduce risk by not using your cell phone or eating while driving, for example.
- Slow down. Speed limits in school zones are reduced for a reason. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 25 mph is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling just 10 mph faster.
- Come to a complete stop. Research shows that more than one-third of drivers roll through stop signs in school zones or neighborhoods. Always come to a complete stop, checking carefully for children on sidewalks and in crosswalks before proceeding.
- Reverse responsibly. Every vehicle has blind spots. Check for children on the sidewalk, in the driveway and around your vehicle before slowly backing up. Teach your children to never play in, under or around vehicles.
- Buckle Up. Use safety belts and appropriate child safety seats or booster seats when transporting children. The safest place in cars for children younger than 13 is the back seat.
- Watch for bicycles. Children on bicycles are often inexperienced, unsteady and unpredictable. Slow down and allow at least three feet of passing distance between your vehicle and a bicyclist. If your child rides a bicycle to school, require that he or she wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet on every ride. Find videos, expert advice and safety tips at AAA.com.
- Talk to your teen. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, and nearly one in four fatal crashes involving teen drivers occur during the after-school hours of 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Get evidence-based guidance and tips at AAA.com