To prevent traffic-related injuries and fatalities to students heading back to school, AAA Northern New England reminds drivers to slow down and stay alert in school zones and in neighborhoods around campuses. The afternoon school hours are particularly dangerous for walking children. Nearly one-third of child pedestrian fatalities occur in the afternoon hours between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. This week marks the 75th AAA Schools Open Drive Carefully Campaign where AAA distributes safety materials to communities across the state including thousand of posters to local and state law enforcement.
This year, AAA Northern New England released its latest television Public Service Announcements (PSAs) just before the start of the 2021-2022 school year to remind all 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 school 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 the phone and subsequently avoids a crash. In the other version of the PSA, nobody in the vehicle speaks up and a crash occurs involving school students in a crosswalk.
- Speak up (crash): https://vimeo.com/manage/videos/580465226
- Speak up (no crash): https://vimeo.com/manage/videos/580465627
The PSAs are intended to remind everyone about how 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 Maine, 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 seatbelt 78%
- ask driver to allow passenger 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 Pat Moody, director of public affairs AAA Northern New England. “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 and in neighborhoods and near bus stops,” said Moody.
AAA Northern New England 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 two 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 the 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 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.
- 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 withdrawals 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 as well as other situations to avoid.
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.