Back-to-school time means more pedestrians and bicyclists around schools, and that traffic can lead to tragedy. 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.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2016 there were 373 child pedestrians and 85 bicyclists were killed as a result of a motor vehicle crash. That same year NHTSA also reported that one of every five children under age 14 who were killed in traffic crashes were pedestrians.
Older kids are at even more risk: While making up only about a quarter of all kids age 0-19, they accounted for more than half of all child pedestrian fatalities. One likely factor is the proliferation of smartphones and headphones. A 2016 observational study by the nonprofit group Safe Kids Worldwide found that 1 in 4 high school students and 1 in 6 middle school students were distracted by headphones, a smartphone, or both while crossing the street, an increase from their 2013 study.
With the hustle and bustle of starting a new school year, you may not think twice about checking a text message on your way to drop the kids off at school. Taking your eyes off the road for two seconds doubles your chance of being involved in a crash.
“As students of all ages head back to school it is important for everyone to stay focused on their role in keeping our highways and sidewalks safe,” said AAA Northern New England public affairs manager Pat Moody. “Most motorists would never consider driving intoxicated in a school zone but regularly drive intexticated. Please out your phone away while driving … lives depend on it!”
New for the 2018-2019 school year, AAA is proud to share a comprehensive classroom-based resource for teachers that instill the principles of AAA safety programs for all students. The lesson plan complements the tenets of the AAA School Safety Patrol program, which was established in 1920 and continues to contribute to the reduction of pedestrian fatalities and injuries while introducing people to AAA at an early age. Click here for the lesson plan.
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:
- Show younger kids how it’s done by always crossing with them: Preschoolers should never cross the street alone. Parents should always hold their hand, and teach them to seek out a trusted adult or older sibling if a parent isn't around.
- Teach children to be cautious, even with the right of way: When kids begin to cross the street on their own (usually in elementary school), they may have mastered the basics, but may not be savvy to the nuances, such as: A green light or walk signal does not guarantee it is safe to cross, only that you have the right to cross. For example, cars making a right turn at a red light might enter the crosswalk. You still must look left-right-left and ensure it is safe. Stopped cars can move suddenly. Make eye contact with the driver before stepping in front of or behind a running vehicle, to ensure they know you're there. Drivers can't see everything, and cars take time to stop. Never, ever walk into the street without looking first.
- Put down your phone. Lives depend on it: To combat this dangerous trend, we've launched a new, multi-year traffic safety education campaign starting in April 2018. Our campaign centers around the theme - "Don’t Drive Intoxicated – Don’t Drive Intexticated." It is designed to help audiences understand the consequences of using a smartphone while driving are the same as drinking and driving – both can result in crashes, injuries and deaths. The campaign targets drivers who would never consider drinking a beer behind the wheel, and yet, regularly engage with mobile devices that dangerously take their eyes, hands and minds off the road.
- Observe school-zone speed limits & bus etiquette: Drivers should always drive slowly in and around school areas. Some school zones have posted speed limits as low as 15 mph, but even if there are no signs, motorists should go no faster than 25 mph, leaving more time to react and reducing the risk of death or injury if a pedestrian is hit.
- Find a safe spot to drop off & pick up your student: If you're driving your child to school, plan ahead about where you're dropping them off. Don't do it where they'll have to cross the street. If the drop-off spot is crowded, never have them jump out into traffic, even if it appears to be stopped. Likewise, when picking up, don't double-park and force your child to navigate a line of arriving and departing cars to get to you, or park across the street and make them cross without your assistance. If you are helping them cross the street, find a space to park legally; leaving a double-parked car unattended is always unsafe and almost always illegal.
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. AAA Northern New England distributes more than 6000 pieces of safety materials to schools, law enforcement agencies, and community groups throughout the tristate region.
As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides 59 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. For more information visit AAA.com/DontDriveDistracted.