This August many California students will return to classes for the first time since the pandemic began. To prevent traffic-related injuries and fatalities to students heading back to school, the Automobile Club of Southern California reminds drivers to slow down and stay alert in school zones and on all roads where children might be walking. The afternoon school hours are particularly dangerous. Nearly one-third of child pedestrian fatalities occur between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
The Auto Club has released its latest distracted driving television Public Service Announcements (PSAs) – just before the start of the 2021-2022 school year – to remind drivers to focus on the road and never on smartphones when behind the wheel. The two new PSAs are similar in that they feature a family of four heading home from a sporting event and show a mom who is texting behind the wheel. However, one PSA depicts a child speaking up to discourage the mom from using a cell phone, thereby avoiding a crash. In the other version of the PSA, nobody in the vehicle speaks up and a crash occurs involving students in a crosswalk.
The PSAs are intended to remind everyone that the simple act of calling out a dangerous driving activity, such as using a smartphone behind the wheel, could save lives. In a recent AAA survey conducted in various states across the U.S., including California, people were asked how they would react if they were a passenger in a vehicle and their driver was texting. Respondents were less willing to ask the driver to stop using the smartphone than they were to ask the driver to put on their seatbelt or hand over the keys if the driver was intoxicated.
Passengers who would:
- ask driver to stop using phone 64%
- ask driver to put on a seat belt 78%
- ask impaired driver to allow them to drive 85%
“Drivers interacting with cell phones to text, email, update social media, find music or program GPS are two to eight times more likely to be involved in a crash,” said Auto Club Corporate Communications & Programs Manager Doug Shupe. “When you drive distracted you are “intexticated” and could cause the same tragedies as an impaired driver. So, all drivers should make it a habit to put mobile devices out of sight and stay alert when on the road, especially in school zones, in local neighborhoods and near bus stops,” said Shupe.
“Keeping our children safe at school and in our neighborhoods is a community effort. We ask that all drivers eliminate distractions, follow the rules of the road, and be especially mindful around our schools as students return to campus,” said Glendale Unified Superintendent of Schools Dr. Vivian Ekchian.
The Auto Club offers drivers these tips to keep kids safe this school year:
- Eliminate distractions and put down the cell phone. Children often cross the road unexpectedly and may emerge suddenly between parked cars. Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing. For more information, tips and videos to prevent “intexticated” driving visit AAA.com/DontDriveDistracted.
- 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.
- 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 after-school hours.
- Come to a complete stop. Research shows that more than one-third of drivers roll through stop signs in school zones or on neighborhood streets. Always come to a complete stop, checking carefully for children on sidewalks and in crosswalks before proceeding.
- Watch for bicycles. Children on bikes can be 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.
- Watch for school buses. Yellow flashing lights indicate the bus is preparing to stop to load or unload children. Drivers should slow down and prepare to stop. Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate the bus has stopped and children are getting on or off. Drivers MUST stop and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop-arm withdraws and the bus begins to move before they can start driving again.
Parents and guardians are also key to keeping children safe. Adults should walk with children to familiarize them with the route to school and point out potential traffic hazards.
Pedestrian safety tips include:
- Wait until you get to your destination before calling people, texting or gaming. If you must 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.
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. Schools and community groups can request school traffic safety materials by going to AAA.com/schoolsafety.