DEARBORN — With many schools back in session, children will be walking, biking and riding the school bus. Making those trips safe is of the utmost importance.
Over 1.5 million children across Michigan will head back to school, with 10 percent of those children typically walking or biking to their classes. AAA warns drivers 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 and 7 p.m.
“The start of the school year is a particularly challenging time for parents because of new routines and increased traffic,” said Adrienne Woodland, AAA – The Auto Club Group spokeswoman. “We encourage anyone taking children to school, and all drivers, to establish habits that help them stay focused on the task of driving.”
Launched in 1946, AAA’s “School’s Open – Drive Carefully” awareness campaign was created as a way to help reduce child pedestrian fatalities and injuries. Here are several recommendations from AAA regarding ways drivers can help to keep children 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. Some ways to reduce risk include not using your cell phone or eating while driving and putting aside electronic distractions.
• 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. 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 to 7 p.m. Get evidence-based guidance and tips at TeenDriving.AAA.com.