In its annual School’s Open — Drive Carefully campaign, AAA Northeast encourages motorists to stay alert in areas where children are present, paying special attention during the morning and afternoon hours when children are coming to and going to school. Launched in 1946, the campaign is designed to curb a trend of unsafe driving behavior in school zones and neighborhoods that can result in children’s injury and death.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 50 million children throughout the nation head back to school before Labor Day this year with 13% walking or biking to school. In 2014, more than 309 child pedestrians died while another 11,000 were injured.
AAA warns the afternoon hours are particularly dangerous because of the last decade, nearly one-third child pedestrian fatalities occurred between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Drivers should also look out for children who may dart out into the street near school zones, playgrounds, bus stops, and in neighborhoods.
“Children get caught up in the excitement of ‘back-to-school’ and sometimes forget to look out for cars,” says Fran Mayko, AAA Northeast’s public affairs specialist. “Many youngsters also have trouble making accurate judgments about traffic speed and distance, so drivers have to be particularly aware for kids darting out into streets near school zones, playgrounds, and bus stops.”
As part of the School’s Open — Drive Carefully campaign, AAA Northeast offers drivers these tips to keep school children safe:
- Slow down. Speed limits in school zones are reduced for a reason. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 25 mph is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling just 10 mph faster.
- Come to a complete stop. Research shows more than one-third of drivers roll through stop signs in school zones or neighborhoods.
- Eliminate distractions. Research shows taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing. And children can be quick, crossing the road unexpectedly or emerging suddenly between two parked cars. Reduce risk by not using your cell phone or eating while driving, for example.
- Reverse responsibly. Every vehicle has blind spots. Check for children on the sidewalk, in the driveway and around your vehicle before slowly backing up. Teach your children to never play in, under or around vehicles.
- 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 a bicyclist. If your child rides a bicycle to school, require he or she wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet on every ride. Find videos, expert advice and safety tips at ShareTheRoad.AAA.com.
AAA Northeast is a not-for-profit auto club with 62 offices in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, New Jersey and New York providing more than 6 million local AAA members with travel, insurance, finance, and auto-related services.