AAA urges motorists to slow down and stay alert; they will soon be sharing the road with millions of Florida students who are returning to school. Not doing so can have life-changing consequences.
Most students attending Pinellas County public schools returned to class Wednesday, Aug. 14.
According to the Transportation Research Board, about 100 children are killed each year while walking to or from school and about 25,000 are injured. The afternoon hours are particularly dangerous. Over the last decade, nearly one in four child pedestrian fatalities occurred between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Drivers should prepare for an increase in:
• 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,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “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.”
AAA reminds motorists to:
• 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 p.m. to 7 p.m. Get evidence-based guidance and tips at TeenDriving.AAA.com.