More than 55 million students across the country are preparing to start the 2013-2014 school year, that number includes more than 1.8 million public school students in Pennsylvania., and AAA Mid-Atlantic and the Mid-Atlantic Foundation for Safety and Education reminds motorists to be alert and take extra care in school zones. Watch for increased child pedestrian activity and traffic congestion in and around school zones, and neighborhoods, especially during the morning and afternoon hours.
Nationwide, nearly one-fifth (20%) of all children between the ages of 5 and 15 killed in traffic crashes in 2010 were pedestrians (199 deaths), according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Pedestrian injuries for this age group totaled 14,000 in 2010.
In Pennsylvania, ten pedestrian children between the ages of 5 and 15 were killed in traffic crashes last year (2012). Pedestrian injuries in this age group totaled 793.
SCHOOL BUS STOPPING LAW
In Pennsylvania, motorists approaching from all directions are required by law to stop at least 10 feet from a school bus with its red lights flashing and stop arm extended. The only exception is when a driver encounters a school bus stopping on the opposite side of a highway clearly separated by a divider, such as concrete barriers or grass medians. Even in this situation, motorists should be alert for students trying to cross the road to catch the bus.
Motorists convicted of violating Pennsylvania’s school bus stopping law face a $250 fine, five points on their driving record and a 60-day license suspension.
In addition to watching for school buses, motorists should be alert in school zones, and are required to slow down to the posted speed limit of 15 mph in school zones. Violators face a fine and three points on their driving record.
AAA’s annual School’s Open –Drive Carefully campaign aims to help reduce the number of school-related pedestrian injuries and fatalities by encouraging motorists to stay alert in school zones, as well as in residential areas where children are present heading to and from school. The campaign utilizes posters, magnets, bumper stickers, handouts, media outreach and other community initiatives to reach motorists.
As part of the campaign, the auto club and the Mid-Atlantic Foundation for Safety and Education offer the following tips for motorists to help keep children safe as they return to school. Additional advice can be found on the Foundation’s web page at AAA.com/Foundation.
Slow down and follow the speed limit. Whether in a school zone or residential neighborhood, motorists should keep their speed low and be prepared to stop quickly for school buses and for increased vehicle or pedestrian traffic.
Come to a complete stop at intersections with stop signs. Look for clues of children nearby. Keep an eye out for clues that children are likely nearby such as AAA School Safety Patrol members, crossing guards, bicycles and playgrounds.
Scan between parked cars. Nearly 40 percent of child pedestrian fatalities occurred between the hours of 4 p. m. and 8 p. m., mostly at non-intersection locations, according to NHTSA. Children can quickly dart out between parked cars or other objects along the roadway. Motorists should pay close attention not only at intersections, but along any residential roadways where children could be present.
Always stop for loading or unloading school buses. It may be tempting to drive around stopped school buses, but not only is it dangerous, it’s against the law. Flashing yellow lights on a school bus indicate it is preparing to stop to load or unload children, and motorists should slow down and prepare to stop. Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate the bus has stopped, and children are getting on and off. Motorists are required to stop their vehicles from either direction of the road, and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop sign is withdrawn and the bus begins moving before they can start driving again.
Eliminate driver distraction. Motorists should always avoid distractions while driving, but it’s particularly important in school zones and residential neighborhoods. Looking away from the roadway for just two seconds doubles the chance of being involved in a crash. Avoid talking on mobile phones, adjusting the radio or any other activities that might take attention away from the roadway. Never text while driving, which is against the law in Pennsylvania.
The Mid-Atlantic Foundation for Safety and Education also urges parents and caregivers to instruct children in the “A-B-Cs” of traffic safety:
A –Always obey school crossing guards and AAA school safety patrols.
B –Look both ways every time you cross the street.
C –Use crosswalks and corners to cross the roads even when cars are not around.
D –Don’t run or rush, and do remember that drivers can’t always see you.
E –Even and especially when it is raining, snowing, or cold, follow the safety rules.
F –Face it: you are no match for a car. They are faster and bigger, and they can be a danger to kids, so watch out!