CHARLOTTE, N.C. (August 17, 2018) – As the new school year begins, AAA Carolinas wants to remind motorists about safe ways to share the roads with young pedestrians, bicyclists and school buses.
The afternoon hours are most dangerous for walking children. Over the last decade, nearly one-third of child pedestrian fatalities have occurred after school hours between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Approximately 815 students die annually and more than 150,000 are injured during travel between school and home –statistics that do not include special activity trips and other school related journeys.
“We all need to be extra vigilant during the school year on the roads, especially around school zones,” said Tiffany Wright, President of AAA Carolinas Foundation for Traffic Safety. “Be alert and don’t drive distracted, as there is a greater chance of children crossing streets as they get off their busses.”
The start of school also means a higher volume of traffic on the roads.
“Leave a little earlier in the coming weeks for work and pack your patience,” Wright added. “It always takes some time for traffic patterns to adjust to new schedules. Be mindful of this period before you get angry behind the wheel, in order to avoid frustration which can lead to road rage.”
The South Carolina Highway Patrol will have extra officers on the roads around school zones for the first week of school to ensure the new traffic patterns are running safely and to remind motorists to slow down in school zones.
AAA urges motorists to follow these tips for sharing the road:
- Wait your turn: It is illegal to pass a school bus that is stopped to load or unload children. School buses use yellow flashing lights to alert motorists that they are preparing to stop. Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign arm also signal that children are getting on or off the bus.
- Don’t Drive Distracted: Dangerous practices behind the wheel, like eating, grooming, texting and talking on the phone, take a driver’s eyes off the road and can have devastating consequences. AAA encourages all motorists to put down their mobile devices- Disconnect and Drive.
- Check the medians: Traffic in both directions must stop on undivided roadways when students are entering or exiting a school bus. On a divided roadway, traffic behind the school bus must stop.
- Extra room: The area 10 feet around a school bus is where children are in the most danger of getting hit. Stop your car far enough from the bus to allow children the necessary space to safely enter and exit the bus.
- Slow down: During busy weekday commutes, remember to slow down, allow for extra commute time and avoid driving distracted on your way to and from work. Keep in mind that fines are doubled in school zones when signs are present.
- Don’t cross the line: Drivers should not block the crosswalk when stopped at a red light or waiting to make a turn. Leave pedestrians with plenty of room to cross safely.
- Fatalities that occur while getting on and off the bus are three times greater than those that occur while riding the bus. Approximately 100 children in the United States are killed every year while walking to or from school and another 25,000 sustain injuries as a result of school zone collisions.
If your child will be walking or biking to school, AAA urges parents and caregivers to discuss the following five safety tips with them:
- Be alert: Look left, right and left again, before crossing the street. Children should also be advised to avoid distractions and watch for potential road hazards.
- Take heed: Always stop when directed to do so by a school patrol sign, school patrol officer or crossing guard.
- Wear a helmet: Kids who bicycle should always wear a helmet. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety states that a helmet can reduce the risk of head injury by 85 percent.
- Phone a friend: Have kids walk to school with a relative, friend or neighbor.
- Walk with caution: Walk only on the sidewalk, and cross the street only at crosswalks. Avoid walking in front of, behind or between parked cars. Remind children that even though they can see a vehicle, doesn’t mean that vehicle can see them. Stress the importance of avoiding walking while using mobile devices. This behavior is a distraction and can impair judgement.