As summer comes to an end and the classroom roll call begins, 50 million children across the United States will head back to school. With 13 percent of those school children typically walking or biking to school, AAA warns drivers to be especially vigilant for pedestrians before and after school hours. The afternoon hours are particularly dangerous for walking children - over the last decade, nearly one-third of child pedestrian fatalities occurred between 3 and 7 p.m.
"For drivers, it may come as a surprise to see school buses and children walking near schools after the summer break, but that's why it's so important to be extra cautious," said Stephanie Milani, Tennessee Public Affairs Director, AAA - The Auto Club Group. "Motorists can do two simple things to help protect children. First, slow down. The difference between 25 mph and 35 mph can save a life. Second, stay alert. Taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chance of crashing."
AAA offers six ways to keep kids safe this school year:
1. Slow down.
Speed limits in school zones are reduced for a reason. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling 25 mph is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling just 10 mph faster.
2. Eliminate distractions.
Children often cross the road unexpectedly and may emerge suddenly between two parked cars. Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing.
3. Reverse responsibly. Every vehicle has blind spots. Check for children on the sidewalk, driveway and around your vehicle before slowly backing up. Teach your children to never play in, under or around vehicles--even those that are parked.
4. Talk to your teen.
Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, and more than one-quarter of 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.
5. 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.
6. 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 the bicycle. If your child rides a bicycle to school, require that they wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet on every ride.
Find videos, expert advice and safety tips at ShareTheRoad.AAA.com.