To help motorists, bicyclists and young pedestrians stay safe as nearly 7 million California schoolchildren return to classrooms in the coming weeks, the Automobile Club of Southern California is distributing thousands of back to school safety newsletters, posters, traffic safety coloring and activity books and school-bus shaped bumper stickers to schools and libraries, community groups and law enforcement as part of AAA’s 78th annual “School’s Open—Drive Carefully campaign.
It incorporates the distracted driving message, “Pay Attention.” The campaign’s goal is to help boost awareness in and around schools due to increased traffic congestion.
In addition, a new “Tips to Pick Up and Drop Off Children at School” card and the Auto Club’s popular Halloween safety bookmark are available this fall as part of 165,500 pieces of traffic safety materials to be distributed across the Southland.
Nationally, traffic collisions are the number one cause of death and injury for youngsters less than 15 years of age. More parents drive their students to school due to years of state budget cuts to school bus service. At the same time, more bicyclists and motorcyclists are on roads trying to save gas, creating a complex safety environment for all road users, 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 the Auto Club’s Community Programs & and Traffic Safety Manager Anita Lorz Villagrana. “Drivers must watch for children walking or riding a bike and reduce their speeds in school zones.”
One-fifth of children under age 14 who die in motor vehicle crashes are pedestrians, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The fatalities are more likely to happen mid-afternoon, when school is letting out.
Traffic safety rules have changed significantly since today’s parents were children, said Lorz Villagrana. Mandatory seat belt laws, air bags, bike helmet requirements, texting and cell phone ban awareness and new, safer ways for crossing streets should be discussed with children.
Educators can also request, an Auto Club Traffic Safety Materials Catalog, which features available educational materials, community programs and safety initiatives. For more information or to obtain the catalog, call Teri Bloom, 714-885-2300.
To help protect children, the Auto Club urges motorists to follow these safety tips:
- Drive without distractions. Don’t use cell phones, eat, apply make up, or shave.
- 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 that are loading, or unloading students.
- Drive with headlights on so children and other drivers can see you.
- 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.