Tis the season for Back-to-School! Some districts just began post-Labor Day, while others have been in session for at least a couple of weeks.
With the new school year just beginning, it’s a great opportunity to remind ourselves and others to be aware in school zones and neighborhoods at all times, either as a pedestrian or a driver. The new school year is generally chaotic with drop-off and pick-up routines becoming established. Even as the dust settles, sometimes people become relaxed or comfortable in their routines and lose their vigilance.
AAA states that nearly one-fourth of pedestrian injuries and fatalities have occurred between the hours of 3p-7p, which are the hours when school lets out and after-school activities begin and end. The National Safety Council (NSC) also states that most fatalities from the ages of 4-7 years occur in bus-related accidents, whether by the bus itself or someone attempting to illegally pass a bus.
What Can I Do?
Though 100% of accidents cannot be avoided, there are precautions all of us can take to alleviate the number of incidences. There are an incredible number of moving parts in a school zone or neighborhood – kids of all ages walking, running, darting around; kids on bicycles; impatient or hurried drivers, to name a few. Awareness becomes key to help preventing accidents.
- Stay off the phone: Whether you are the driver or a pedestrian, you shouldn’t be on your phone while on the road.
Despite California laws against phone use and driving, we have all witnessed people doing it anyway. Additionally, while it’s not against the law in California for pedestrians to be looking at or on their phone while in a crosswalk, it’s just safer not to be.
The point is, wait until you’re safe. Pedestrians should wait until they are safely on the sidewalk or seated, and drivers need to wait until they are fully parked (not just stopped).
- Avoid other distractions: “Distraction” isn’t just being preoccupied by your phone, as discussed in one of our previous blogs. It can be food, it can be trying to reach for something, adjusting the radio or temperature, etc. Realistically, we all do these things in our drives. However, at the very least, avoid doing these things in school zones/neighborhood. AAA Exchange indicates that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing.
- Increase your distance: Instead of creeping up on the car in front of you, allowing yourself more distance also allows you more response time in case you need to suddenly brake, stop, or veer out of the way from a child, car, or other obstacle that may come into your path.
This is especially true at a high school, where some drivers may be newly licensed and may make a sudden stop or unexpected action.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but we all understand that people often become lax in their observation of rules in any situation once they are familiar or comfortable with it.
However, it’s crucial in school zones to become even more vigilant about observing the rules and traffic laws:
- Come to a full stop at stop signs, and before making a legal right on a red light.
- Check intersections and crosswalks more thoroughly before proceeding.
- Observe the 25mph Zone: The reduced speed is there for a reason. There is a known relationship between pedestrian injury/fatality and the speed of the car upon impact. Data indicates that a vehicle traveling faster than 30 mph is more likely to cause a fatality than lesser speeds.
According to a study compiled by AAA, the following relationship between the risk of severe injury and speed upon impact is demonstrated:
Risk of Severe Injury Speed Upon Impact
The Road Safety Observatory also explains the risk of fatality increases by 3.5-5.5 times between 30mph-40mph speeds.
- Follow any temporary traffic routes that the school has set up in their parking lot or in front of the school. Going against them defies their purpose (streamlining traffic flow) and causes more confusion, resulting in delays and possible accidents.
Whenever you can, use your daily routine in the car ride to school, while running errands, or any other time you’re out and about to teach them about safe behaviors (looking both ways while crossing the street, e.g.) and safety procedures (waiting for the ‘walk’ symbol before crossing the street at a traffic light, e.g.).
Modeling, practicing, and explaining the importance of these behaviors helps children absorb the information and implement them as good habits. Eventually, it may become second nature to your kids, who might even try to teach others as well!