AAA urges driver vigilance as kids head back to school
Submitted by Shawn Steward
Every fall, more than 55 million children across the United States head back to school. With 13 percent of those children typically walking or biking to their classes, AAA warns drivers to be especially vigilant for pedestrians before and after school hours. The afternoon hours are particularly dangerous, with nearly one in four child pedestrian fatalities occurring between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
“It’s that time when motorists need to be much more aware and careful, as students head back to schools,” said Shawn Steward, AAA Kansas spokesman. “Kids will be walking and biking to school, getting on and off school buses and in and out of cars in carpool lines. All of these situations create extra hazards for drivers, as well as the student pedestrians and bicyclists. In addition, many new, inexperienced teen drivers will be driving to school for the first time, creating additional concerns for traffic safety.”
Here are several recommendations from AAA Kansas regarding ways drivers can help to keep kids safe during back-to-school season.
• Slow down. Speed limits in school zones are reduced for a reason. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 25 miles per hour is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling just 10 miles per hour 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.
• Eliminate distractions. Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing. And children can be quick, 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.
• 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.
• Watch for bicycles. Children on bikes 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 ShareTheRoad.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 TeenDriving.AAA.com.
Launched in 1946, AAA’s “School’s Open – Drive Carefully” awareness campaign was created as a way to help reduce child pedestrian fatalities and injuries. For anyone wanting to provide a back-to-school safety reminder to drivers in their neighborhoods, AAA Kansas is giving out free “School’s Open – Drive Carefully” yard signs.
Simply stop by one of the five AAA Kansas retail stores — located in Lawrence, Topeka, Manhattan, East Wichita and West Wichita — for a free sign. The offer is available to AAA members and non-members, one sign per household and supplies are limited.