In a normal year, back-to-school season in southern California would see an increase in foot traffic in school zones, sidewalks, and crosswalks. This year, with some students in virtual learning settings and others returning to school, everywhere should be considered a “school zone,” according to the Automobile Club of Southern California.
That presents a new safety challenge for drivers, who should anticipate an increase in pedestrian and bicyclist activity in neighborhoods across the region at any time of the day.
"Most drivers know they need to be especially vigilant in marked school zones and routes to school to protect students," said Auto Club traffic safety and community programs manager Anita Lorz-Villagrana. "This year's extraordinary circumstances require that motorists carry that same vigilance wherever they drive, as typical school zone activity moves closer to home."
Tips for Drivers
- 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 than a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling just 10 mph faster. Some school districts may be staggering bus schedules to keep students safely socially distanced. This means that school zones may be active for longer or active at unexpected times.
- Expect children in neighborhoods throughout the day. With more students learning from home, whether through homeschooling or virtual learning, children may be playing outside or taking a recess break throughout the day. Treat neighborhoods as school zones by reducing your speed and watching for children near the road.
- Come to a complete stop. AAA 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. 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 parked cars.
- Watch for bicycles. Children on bicycles are often inexperienced, unsteady and unpredictable. Slow down and allow at least three feet of passing distance between your vehicle and a bicyclist. It's the law. If your child rides a bicycle to school or around the neighborhood, require that they wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet on every ride. Find videos, expert advice and safety tips at ShareTheRoad.AAA.com.