Classes resuming, so drivers beware

The American Press

It’s time to start thinking about school zones again.

More than 55 million children across the United States will be heading back to school this week. Of those, 13 percent are expected to walk or bike to their classes.

It may take students a little time to get back into the school routine, but drivers everywhere don’t have that luxury. Motorists need to be especially vigilant for pedestrians before and after school hours. 

The afternoon hours are particularly dangerous — over the last decade, nearly one in four child pedestrian fatalities occurred between 3-7 p.m., according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. 

Louisiana law requires motorists to stop at least 30 feet from stopped school buses loading and unloading children. It is illegal to pass a stopped school bus taking in or discharging students. 

If there is a teen driver in the family, parents must have a serious conversation with their child before school starts and consider implementing strict guidelines regarding other teen passengers and the use of cell phones. 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 3-7 p.m., according to the AAA. 

Here are several recommendations from AAA on ways drivers can help to keep kids safe:

•  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. 

•  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 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.

•  Consider changing your commute. If your daily route takes you through a school zone, you may want to consider changing your routine to avoid potential hazards associated with these areas.

Let’s all be aware and be safe.

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