To prevent injuries and fatalities to students heading back to school, the Automobile Club of Southern California reminds drivers to slow down and stay alert in school zones and neighborhoods around schools. Across the nation 55.4 million students will go back to school this fall. The afternoon hours are particularly dangerous for walking children. Over the last decade, nearly one-third of child pedestrian fatalities occurred between 3 and 7 p.m.
In 2015, across the U.S. there were 456 child pedestrians killed as a result of motor vehicle crashes according to Safe Kids Worldwide. That same year the Centers for Disease Control reported one of every five children under the age of 15 who were killed in traffic crashes were pedestrians. According to the California Highway Patrol, 1,851 child pedestrians were killed and injured in California.
“These tragedies are devastating to families and school communities but they can be prevented,” said Auto Club Traffic Safety Manager Anita Lorz Villagrana. “We remind drivers to watch out for young pedestrians and bicyclists, obey all posted speed limits, pay extra attention around school zones and never drive distracted. Parents also play a vital role in protecting students by reviewing traffic safety rules with them before school begins and throughout the year.”
As students head back to school, the Auto Club recommends the following for drivers and parents:
- Slow down. Speed limits in school zones are reduced for a reason. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling 25 mph is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling just 10 mph faster. A difference between 25 mph and 35 mph can save a life.
- Eliminate distractions. Children often cross the road unexpectedly and may emerge suddenly between two parked cars. Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing.
- Reverse responsibly. Every vehicle has blind spots. Check for children on the sidewalk, driveway and around your vehicle before slowly backing up. Teach your children to never play in, under or around vehicles—even those that are parked.
- Talk with children about traffic safety and teach them to use marked crosswalks and corners to cross the street. Remember that intersections are usually the safest location for children to cross, and the majority of child pedestrian deaths occur at non-intersections. Always use crosswalks yourself to model safe behavior for your child.
- Talk to your teen. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, and more than one-quarter of fatal crashes involving teen drivers occur during the after-school hours of 3 to 7 p.m. Get evidence-based guidance and tips at TeenDriving.AAA.com.
- 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.
- 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 the bicycle. If your child rides a bicycle to school, require that they wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet on every ride.
- If you are a parent picking up or dropping off a child at a school, familiarize yourself with school drop-off and pick-up practices and always follow the rules of the school.
The Auto Club is also committed to addressing the growing problem of distracted pedestrians. Parents are encouraged to speak with students about the following:
- Wait until you get to your destination before calling people, texting or gaming. If you have to text or make a call while walking, stop and find a safe location.
- Avoid using hands-free devices while walking – Hang up and walk!
- Remove your headphones or turn down the volume of your music so you can hear what’s going on around you.
- Keep watching out for cars while crossing the street. There are a lot of distracted drivers out there so keep looking all around you while in and around crosswalks.
- Be a role model – pay attention while you walk and if you see your friends and family distracted while they walk – speak up.
As part of AAA’s School’s Open – Drive Carefully campaign, which began in 1946, the Auto Club distributes more than 500,000 pieces of safety materials to schools, law enforcement agencies and community groups throughout the 13 southern most counties of California. To request an Auto Club Traffic Safety Materials catalog which features available items simply visit www.AAA.com/schoolsafety. To learn more about pedestrian safety, please visit www.AAA.com/safetytips. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.