A new school year is about to begin for millions of students across the country, bringing with it a return of school buses to the road and children walking to bus stops and neighborhood schools.
Recognizing this, Penske and AAA have provided some tips for drivers to navigate school zones to help keep children safe.
A new school year brings with it excitement for children filled with meeting new teachers and classmates and reconnecting with old friends. The surge of emotion can distract children from making good choices when walking to bus stops and schools.
“During the first couple of months, you need to be even more alert because students might make unpredictable moves,” said Chuck Pagesy, director of safety for Penske. “These are young children, and they may not make the best decisions. They could run out in the street chasing a ball or another object.”
When entering a school zone, drivers should follow any speed restrictions related to that school zone – whether it is a flashing sign with red lights or just a posted speed limit.
Consumer renters should take special care in school zones with stopped buses or children crossing the street. “Many of our larger rental vehicles are sitting up higher, and the hood could potentially obstruct seeing a young child in front of one of our trucks,” Pagesy cautioned.
Drivers should also keep an eye out for crossing guards and follow their instructions.
“And just because an intersection does not have a crossing guard doesn’t mean you won’t come upon young children who may dart across the road. There is that risk potential,” Pagesy said.
Risks do not disappear when drivers are out of the school zone. Drivers should be watchful at dismissal times for young children in the neighborhood surrounding the school.
AAA offers these additional tips for drivers:
- 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. And children can be quick, crossing the road unexpectedly or emerging suddenly between two parked cars. Reduce risk by not using your cell phone or eating while driving, for example.
- Reverse responsibly. Every vehicle has blind spots. Check for children on the sidewalk, in the driveway and around your vehicle before slowly backing up. Teach your children to never play in, under or around vehicles.
- Watch for bicycles. Children on bikes are often inexperienced, unsteady and unpredictable. Slow down and allow at least 3 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 a large portion of 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 AAA.com.
Do you have tips for readying your children for the new school year?
Share them in the comment section below.
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By Bernie Mixon