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Auto Club Warns: School's Open, Drive Carefully

(LOS ANGELES, Aug. 19, 2009) —To help motorists, bicyclists and young pedestrians stay safe and aware as nearly 7 million children in California return to school in the coming weeks and to improve all around traffic safety, the Automobile Club of Southern California is distributing hundreds of back to school safety newsletters, posters and bumper stickers to schools, law enforcement agencies and AAA-Approved Auto Repair facilities as part of AAA’s 76th 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. And this year as the result of the state budget, more school districts are reducing or idling school buses, shifting more driving to parents. At the same time, more bicyclists and motorcyclists are on the roadway trying to save gasoline, creating a challenging safety environment for all who share the road, according to the Auto Club.

“Traffic congestion in parking lots and streets near campuses increases after school starts. This, paired with children’s tendency to dart into the street without looking for oncoming traffic, increases hazards children face while walking to and from school or waiting at bus stops,” said the Auto Club’s Anita Lorz, community relations and traffic safety team lead. “Drivers must watch for children walking or riding a bike and reduce 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 the afternoon hours, when school is letting out between 3 and 4 p.m.

The Auto Club also will be offering a free Otto the Auto DVD to elementary schools. Otto, a 3-foot-tall interactive car, uses songs, blinking headlights and a kid-friendly presentation to instill good traffic habits in young children.

Educators can also request, an Auto Club Traffic Safety Materials Catalog, which features available educational materials and resources. The catalog also highlights the Auto Club’s community programs and safety initiatives. For more information or to obtain the traffic safety materials, please call Teri Bloom, 714-885-2300.

Traffic safety rules have changed significantly since today’s parents were children themselves, said Lorz. Mandatory seat belt laws, air bags, bicycle helmet requirements and new, safer ways for crossing streets are among the topics that Otto covers with children.

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.

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.

CST 1016202-80 Copyright © Automobile Club of Southern California. All Rights Reserved.
The Automobile Club of Southern California is a member club affiliated with the American Automobile Association (AAA) national federation and serves members in the following California counties: Inyo, Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura.