Across the nation, 56 million students are going back to school. In the Southland, to prevent traffic-related injuries and fatalities to students heading back to school this month, the Automobile Club of Southern California and safety advocates urge drivers to slow down and stay alert in school zones and neighborhoods around schools. The afternoon school 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 2016 alone, across the U.S., there were 373 child pedestrians and 85 bicyclists were killed as a result of motor vehicle crashes, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Agency (NHTSA). That same year NHTSA also reported that one of every five children under age 14 who were killed in traffic crashes were pedestrians. In California, 40 pedestrians and six bicyclists under 18 years old were killed.
Hundreds of the 6.2 million California school children of all ages are returning to classrooms beginning next week. To heighten awareness of driving safely in school zones, the Auto Club today launched its School’s Open – Drive Carefully safety campaign
The Auto Club’s School’s Open – Drive Safely traffic safety awareness campaign includes distribution of more than 500,000 pieces of traffic safety materials to elementary, middle and high schools, law enforcement and community groups in its 13-county service region. New materials urge motorists to not drive “intexticated” and to slow down in neighborhoods and school zones.
“Drivers interacting with cell phones to text or surf the Internet are two to eight times more likely to be involved in a crash so it’s very important to place your mobile device out of sight and stay alert as kids head back to school,” cautioned Auto Club Traffic Safety Manager Anita Lorz Villagrana. “We wish students a successful new school year, but most of all a safe one.”
The Auto Club and its Back to School safety partners offer tips to keep kids this school year:
- 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 and put down the cell phone. 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.
- 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 www.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. Find videos, expert advice and safety tips at www.ShareTheRoad.AAA.com.
Distracted walking safety tips include:
- 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.
Schools and community groups can request an Auto Club Traffic Safety Materials catalog describing available educational brochures and tip cards, programs and safety initiatives by going to www.AAA.com/schoolsafety. To learn more about pedestrian safety, please visit www.AAA.com/safetytips. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.