Auto Club Cautions All Motorists: School's Open-Drive Carefully

Teen Drivers Also Should be Alert to Children and Others on Foot, Bikes

(LOS ANGELES, Aug. 8, 2007) — As summer winds down and the 2007 school year begins, drivers need to stay more alert for the millions of young pedestrians and bicyclists who are heading back to the classrooms this month and in September, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.

In 2005, California children under 15 years of age accounted for 22 percent of pedestrian fatalities and 22.8 percent of bicycle fatalities and injuries.

"All motorists, and that includes teen drivers, should always be aware of children and others on foot and on bicycles. Drivers also need to be extra alert near and around schools," said the Auto Club's Managing Director for Community Affairs Patrice Frazier. "Youngsters are not skilled at making correct judgments about traffic speed and distance. Young drivers have less skill and experience, too, so they and other drivers should take the time now to note school locations and start looking out for children walking or riding a bike to school."

One-fifth of all children 14 years of age and younger who die in motor vehicle crashes are pedestrians, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These pedestrian fatalities are more likely to happen in the afternoon hours, when school is letting out. "Drivers also should be on the look out for high school cross country running teams training on city streets this month," Frazier added. "They often run early in the morning or in the evening."

This is the 74th year AAA has conducted its "School's Open — Drive Carefully" campaign.

To help protect children, the Auto Club urges motorists to:

  • Drive slowly in and around school and residential areas. Pay extra attention near schools during the morning and afternoon hours.
  • Obey school zone speed limit signs and come to a complete stop at all intersections.
  • Always stop for school buses loading, or unloading students.
  • Drive with your headlights on — even during the day — so children and other drivers can see you.
  • Drive without distractions. Don't use cell phones, eat, apply make up, shave or anything that could take your attention from the road.
  • Scan between parked cars as children could dart into the street near school zones, playgrounds, bus stops and in neighborhoods.
  • Leave for your destination early, so you don't have to speed to arrive on time. Take the possibility of traffic jams into consideration when planning your departure time.

Pedestrians should remember the following safety tips:

  • Cross only at corners so drivers can see you.
  • Always use a crosswalk when it's available. But remember that painted lines can't stop cars.
  • Cross only on the new green light, so you have time to cross safely.
  • Use the intersection's walk/don't walk push-button when possible and cross with the "walk" sign only.
  • Look all ways before crossing, watching of cars that are turning.
  • Never cross the street from between cars. Drivers can't see you.
  • If sidewalks are not provided, walk on the left side of the road, facing traffic, so you can see oncoming cars.
  • When walking in the early morning or at dusk, use a flashlight or wear or carry something retro-reflective at night to help drivers see you.