THATCHER – Children have returned to school, and local drivers need to be more alert than ever.
More children are hit by vehicles around school grounds than anywhere else. Approximately 100 children are hit and killed while walking to or from school yearly in the United States. Another 25,000 children are hurt as a result of school zone accidents every year. Ultimately, statistics also prove that more children are killed getting on or off a bus than in any bus-related traffic accident. Every single day, 44 children are hit by cars in the United States. These tragic accidents are caused my multiple factors, including driver error and children darting in front of traffic.
Not only are children not as well schooled in traffic rules as adults, but many drivers are driving distracted. According to a 2009 study by Safe Kids USA, one in six drivers are operating a vehicle while distracted. This means that roughly 17% of drivers in the school zone are driving distracted. Distracted driving means the driver is performing any type of activity that would distract the driver from operating the vehicle.
Thatcher Police Chief Shaffen Woods said pedestrians need to follow basic traffic safety rules as well.
“Pedestrians need to cross the roadways in crosswalks if possible or on the corners of intersections, especially near the schools,” he said. “A good idea for parents bringing their children to school is to leave a little early to avoid the traffic jams and rush that occurs daily while parents are trying to get the kids to school at the last minute.”
“Lastly, a little patience goes along way. Buses are slow, and there is a lot of traffic early in the morning when school gets out. Drivers with patience and courtesy are helpful in maintaining a safe environment for all.”
Tips to Teach Children for Back to School Safety
- Instruct them to use the crosswalk all the time. While it is easy to tell a child to do something, it is also best to lead by example. While walking in the school zone, use the crosswalk with your child. Crossing somewhere other than an intersection results in 81% of child pedestrian deaths.
- While crossing the street, tell your child to look left, right and then left once again before crossing. Tell your child to remain constantly on alert while crossing the street, even at a crosswalk.
- Arrive at the bus stop early to avoid chasing the bus or any other reason to enter the road.
- Instruct your child to stand at least two large steps away from the road while waiting for the bus.
- Wait for the bus to come to a complete stop before coming forward to board the bus.
- Tell your child that if they have dropped something to notify the bus driver immediately. That way the driver knows where the child is at all times.
- For older teenagers, instruct them to not walk distracted. This means they should put their phones down and remain alert, scanning the area for distracted drivers. They should also refrain from listening to music while walking.
- Tell your children to use the sidewalk whenever possible.
- If your child will be walking in the dark, be sure that they wear bright-colored clothing. Of all pedestrian deaths, 75% occur between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.
Tips for Drivers
- Always assume that pedestrians are present. Also, remember that children tend to dart and get tunnel vision. A child may not see you as you drive down the road and may dart in front of your moving vehicle.
- Keep your eyes firmly on the road and do not be distracted, especially in school zones.
- Drive carefully with reduced speeds in neighborhoods where children are present and around school bus zones.
- Slow down while driving behind a bus, as it usually makes sudden and frequent stops.
Sources: trafficschool.com, defensivedriving.com and safekids.org