As 50 million children across the country begin heading back to school, including the Los Angeles Unified School District, AAA urges motorists to slow down and stay alert in neighborhoods and school zones, and to be especially vigilant for pedestrians during before- and after-school hours. 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.
To heighten school zone driving safety awareness, the Automobile Club of Southern California participated today with the LAPD in a Back to School Safety Campaign at Shirley Elementary School in Reseda. Speakers highlighted eliminating driver distractions, and looking out for young pedestrians, young bicyclists as well as students of all ages. Approximately 6.2 million California children are returning to classrooms this fall.
The Auto Club’s own School’s Open – Drive Safely traffic safety awareness campaign includes distribution of more than 500,000 pieces of safety materials to elementary, middle and high schools, law enforcement and community groups in its service region – the 13 southernmost counties of the state.
“More than 309 child pedestrians died in 2014 and 11,000 were injured across the country, and of those 51 child pedestrians were killed and injured in California and which occurred during school transport hours,” cautioned Auto Club Traffic Safety Manager Anita Lorz Villagrana. “AAA’s School’s Open – Drive Carefully awareness campaign was designed in 1946 to curb a trend of unsafe driving behavior in school zones and neighborhoods that can result in children’s injury and death. Seventy years later, the message remains - we must remind motorists to slow down and stay alert as kids head back to school.”
The Auto Club offers helpful tips to keep kids safe 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. 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 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. Find videos, expert advice and safety tips at ShareTheRoad.AAA.com.
To draw attention to the problem of walking and texting by young pedestrians, the Auto Club is “urging parents to speak with their students about walking safely to school without texting, and is asking everyone to walk and drive without the distraction of electronic devices,” she said.
“Moms and dads should tell their children and teens to remove headphones and put away cell phones and other electronic devices so they can see and hear traffic when crossing the street. It’s very dangerous to walk in crosswalks and on streets while looking down at a phone screen,” said Lorz Villagrana. “Distracted walking behavior is becoming common as more teens and pre-teens use electronic devices.”
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.
“Late afternoon hours between 3 and 7 p.m. pose increased hazards for children walking from school due to more congestion from bikes, cars and pedestrians. “Drivers must also watch out for children and teens walking while distracted.”
Schools and community groups can request an Auto Club Traffic Safety Materials catalog which features 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.