Auto Club Warns: School's Open, Drive Carefully

(LOS ANGELES, Sept. 1, 2011) —To help motorists, bicyclists and young pedestrians stay safe and aware as nearly 7 million children in California return to school, the Automobile Club of Southern California reminds motorists to note speed limits in school zones and to slow down and watch for children.
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a pedestrian stuck by a vehicle traveling at 25 mph is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed as a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling 10 mph faster. “School zone speed limits are in place to save lives,” said Anita Lorz manager of traffic safety and community affairs for the Auto Club.
The Auto Club also is distributing hundreds of safety newsletters, posters and bumper stickers to schools, law enforcement agencies and AAA-Approved Auto Repair facilities as part of AAA’s 65th annual “School’s Open—Drive Carefully” educational campaign.
Nationally, traffic collisions are the number one cause of death and injury for youngsters less than 15 years of age. Given the state’s budget woes, more school districts are reducing or sopping school bus service, shifting the driving responsibility to parents. At the same time, more bicyclists and motorcyclists are on the roads, creating a challenging safety environment for all who share the road, according to the Auto Club.
“Traffic congestion near campuses increases hazards children face while walking to and from school or even waiting at bus stops,” said Lorz. “Drivers must watch for children walking or riding a bike and reduce their speeds in school zones.”
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 afternoon hours, when school is letting out about 3 p.m.
To help protect children, the Auto Club urges motorists to follow these safety tips:
• Drive slowly in and around school and residential areas. Pay extra attention near schools during the morning and afternoon hours. Do not drive while distracted.
• Obey school zone speed limit signs and come to a complete stop at all intersections.
• Always stop for school buses that are loading, or unloading students.
• Drive with headlights on so children and other drivers can see you.
• Drive without distractions. Don’t use cell phones, eat, apply make up, or shave.
• Scan between parked cars as children could dart into the street near school zones, playgrounds, bus stops and in neighborhoods.
Pedestrians should remember the following safety tips:
• Children under age 10 should not cross the street alone.
• Cross only at corners so drivers can see you.
• Always use a crosswalk when 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 walk/don’t walk push-button. Cross with the “walk” sign only.
• Look all ways before crossing, watching for cars that are turning.
• Never cross the street from between cars. Drivers can’t see you.
• If sidewalks are not provided, walk on left side of road, facing traffic, to see oncoming cars.
• Use a flashlight or wear or carry something retro-reflective at night to help drivers see you.
Bicycle riders under age 18 must wear a helmet under state law and practice the following:
• Keep your bicycle in good mechanical condition.
• Obey all traffic rules and signs.
• Walk your bike across busy intersections.
• Be sure the road is clear before entering.
• Always ride single file and watch for opening car doors.
• Use the safest route to your destination. Avoid busy streets and intersections.
• Don’t carry passengers or ride while using headphones.
Educators can also request an Auto Club Traffic Safety Materials Catalog, which features free educational materials and resources. For more information or to obtain the traffic safety materials, please call Teri Bloom, 714-885-2300.

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