SCHOOLS OPEN, DRIVE CAREFULLY

As children head back to school, AAA is encouraging motorists to pay extra attention behind the wheel

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According to NHTSA the greatest risk to a child isn’t riding a bus, but approaching or leaving one. From 2008 to 2017, there were 264 school-age children killed in school-transportation-related crashes. The majority of those students weren’t on the bus; 203 were either walking, waiting for the bus, biking, or in another vehicle. Over the last decade, more than a quarter of child pedestrian injuries and fatalities in the U.S. have occurred between 3 and 7 p.m. Through its annual ‘School’s Open – Drive Carefully’ public awareness campaign, AAA aims to help reduce child pedestrian fatalities and injuries. 

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. AAA Northern New England distributes thousands of posters and campaign materials to law enforcement agencies across the region to remind motorists that school is open and to expect changes in their daily commute.

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling 25 miles per hour is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed as compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling just ten mph faster. “It’s that time when motorists need to be much more aware and careful, as students head back to schools,” said Pat Moody, manager of public affairs for AAA Northern New England. “Kids will be walking and biking to school, and getting on and off school buses. All of these situations create extra hazards for drivers as well as the student pedestrians and bicyclists. In addition, many new, inexperienced teen drivers will be driving to school for the first time, creating additional concerns for traffic safety.”

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 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.
     
  • Stop Means 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.
     
  • Put down your phone. Lives depend on it. 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 just two seconds, however, doubles your chance of being involved in a crash. Help combat this dangerous habit by pledging to not use your smartphone while driving.
     
  • Distracted Walking. Stress to kids that distracted walking isn't safe. Parents should emphasize that crossing the street requires the full use of one's eyes and ears.
     
  • Talk to your teen. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, and nearly one in four fatal crashes involving teen drivers occur during the after-school hours of 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Get evidence-based guidance and tips at TeenDriving.AAA.com
     
  • 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.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides 60 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.