Every fall, over 55 million children across the United States head back to school. With 13 percent of those children typically walking or biking to their classes, AAA warns drivers to be especially vigilant for pedestrians before and after school hours. The afternoon hours are particularly dangerous – over the last decade, nearly one in four child pedestrian fatalities occurred between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
In 2015, across the U.S. there were 456 child pedestrians killed as a result of motor vehicle crashes according to Safe Kids Worldwide. That same year the Centers for Disease Control reported one of every five children under the age of 15 who were killed in traffic crashes were pedestrians.
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 25 mph is about two-thirds less likely to be killed as compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 35 mph.
“These tragedies are devastating to families and school communities but they can be prevented,” said AAA Northern New England public affairs manager Pat Moody. “We remind drivers to watch out for young pedestrians and bicyclists, obey all posted speed limits, pay extra attention around school zones and never drive distracted. Parents also play a vital role in protecting students by reviewing traffic safety rules with them before school begins and throughout the year.”
AAA’s School’s Open – Drive Carefully campaign was launched nationally in 1946 to help reduce the number of school-related pedestrian injuries and fatalities. The campaign kicks off each fall and continues throughout the school year to remind motorists to watch out for children as they travel to and from school. The campaign utilizes posters, magnets, bumper stickers, handouts, media outreach and other community initiatives.
In addition to slowing down, AAA offers the following advice for motorists and parents to keep children safe as they navigate their way through school zones:
- 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 with children about traffic safety and teach them to use marked crosswalks and corners to cross the street. Remember that intersections are usually the safest location for children to cross, and the majority of child pedestrian deaths occur at non-intersections. Always use crosswalks yourself to model safe behavior for your child.
- 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.
- If you are a parent picking up or dropping off a child at a school, familiarize yourself with school drop-off and pick-up practices and always follow the rules of the school.
AAA is also committed to addressing the growing problem of distracted pedestrians. Parents are encouraged to speak with students about the following:
- 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.
As part of AAA’s School’s Open – Drive Carefully campaign, which began in 1946, the Auto Club distributes more than 6000 pieces of safety materials to schools, law enforcement agencies and community groups throughout Northern New England.
As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides 57 million members with travel, insurance, financial, and automotive-related services. Operating 19 offices throughout Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, AAA Northern New England is a not-for-profit, fully tax-paying corporation and a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Today, AAA members benefit by roadside assistance, insurance products and services, travel agency, financial products, automotive pricing and buying programs, automotive testing and analysis, trip-planning services, and highway and transportation safety programs. Information about these products and services is available by visiting www.AAA.com.