Back To School

Back to School Means Back to Basic Safety

As summer draws to a close and the classroom bell rings in the new school year, more than 55 million children across the United States will be heading 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 – over the last decade, nearly one in four child pedestrian fatalities occurred between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.

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.
Children are active, inquisitive and impetuous and never miss an opportunity to explore something that interests them – even if it means venturing into the street.

Many children know little of pedestrian safety rules, and even those that do are likely to forget them in pursuit of a rolling ball or wind-tossed school paper. AAA’s School’s Open – Drive Carefully awareness campaign reminds drivers that children are not small adults. Children may also make the mistake of assuming that if they can see a car the driver can see them.

If there is a teen driver in the family, parents must have a serious conversation with their child before school starts and consider implementing strict guidelines regarding other teen passengers and the use of mobile devices.

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. Groundbreaking research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety revealed that distractions were the cause of 60 percent of crashes involving teen drivers.

The most common distractions were teen passengers and cell phones.

Here are several recommendations from AAA regarding ways drivers can help to keep kids safe:

  • 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.
  • 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. Ample research exists proving that hands-free devices are not any safer that handheld devices.
  • 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.