(Irving, TX) - Every fall, more than 55 million children across the United States head back to school. With 13 percent of those children typically walking or biking to their classes, AAA Texas warns drivers to be especially vigilant for pedestrians before and after school hours. The afternoon hours are particularly dangerous – over the last decade, more than one-fourth of child pedestrian fatalities occurred between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Most Texas schools start up again on August 26, so AAA Texas recommends the following tips to drivers:
•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 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. Reduce risk by not using your cell phone or eating while driving, for example.
•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.
• Talk to your teen. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, and more than 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
Parents should also review AAA’s tips for pedestrian, bicycle, and bus safety with children as the new school year begins to encourage students to remain aware and alert when traveling to school. Those tips include:
• Cross at corners, never in the middle of the block.
• Stop, and look in all directions before crossing.
• If there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic, in single file, as far away from the road as possible.
• Wear white or reflective clothing after dark.
• Wear properly-fitting safety equipment when riding a bicycle.
• Remember that a bicycle is a vehicle and must follow the same rules of the road as cars.
• Remain in your seat while the bus is in motion.
• Keep your head and arms inside the bus at all times.
• Remain quiet, so the driver can concentrate.
• Be alert to traffic when leaving the bus.
As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 53 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA Texas can be visited on the Internet at www.AAA.com. Follow AAA Texas on Twitter: @AAATexas and Facebook: www.facebook.com/AAATexas .