ORLANDO, Fla. – About 100 students die each year walking to and from school and nearly 25,000 are injured, according to the Transportation Research Board.
That's why the AAA is encouraging drivers to slow down and use extra caution on the roads as students prepare to head back to school, especially during afternoon hours, which have proven over the last several years to be particularly dangerous, the auto club group said.
Over the last decade, nearly one in four child pedestrian deaths took place between the hours of 3 and 7 p.m, AAA said, citing the the Transportation Research Board.
AAA is encouraging drivers to prepare for an increase in the following forms of traffic:
- Congestion – More drivers in the morning and afternoon
- Pedestrians – Students walking to and from school or the bus stop
- Buses – Picking up and dropping off students
- Bicyclists – Traveling to and from school
“AAA urges drivers to allow extra time for their morning commute and use extreme caution, even outside of school zones,” AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins said. “Throughout town, students will be walking or pedaling alongside city streets on their way to-and-from school or the bus stop; and they may not be familiar with the rules of the road. It’s incumbent on drivers to eliminate distractions, slow down, and watch out for students and their families.”
Upon the return of back-to-school season and through its School's Open -- Drive Carefully campaign, AAA offered the following reminders to brush up on before hitting the road:
- 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 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.
- Eliminate distractions. Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing. Children can move quickly; crossing the road unexpectedly or emerging suddenly between two parked cars. Reduce risk by avoiding distractions like using your cell phone or eating while driving.
- Watch for school buses. Every state has a law making it illegal to pass a school bus with its red lights flashing and stop-arm extended that is stopped to load or unload students. However, some motorists simply choose to ignore the law. Any person using, operating or driving a vehicle on or over the roads, or highways of this state shall, upon approaching any school bus that displays a stop signal bring such vehicle to a full stop while the bus is stopped, and the vehicle shall not pass the school bus until the signal has been withdrawn.
- Share the road. Children on bicycles 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 that he or she wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet on every ride. Find videos, expert advice and safety tips at ShareTheRoad.AAA.com.
- 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 to 7 p.m. Get evidence-based guidance and tips at TeenDriving.AAA.com.
If your student is a bus rider, it may also be a good idea to brush up on the following school bus safety tips, courtesy of the Ocoee Police Department:
- All drivers moving in either direction on two-way streets must stop for a school bus displaying a stop signal, and must remain stopped until the road is clear of children AND the school bus stop arm is withdrawn.
- On highways divided by a paved median, all drivers moving in either direction must stop for a school bus displaying a stop signal, and must remain stopped until the road is clear of children and the school bus stop arm is withdrawn.
- When traveling in the opposite direction and there is a raised barrier, such as a concrete divider, or at least five feet of unpaved space separating the lanes of traffic. Painted lines or pavement markings are not considered barriers.
Ocoee PD suggests slowing down and using caution as students are loading or unloading from the bus.