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School’s in Session, AAA Warns Drivers to Watch for Kids

First day of School | Back to School

Today (Aug. 24) is the first day of school for kids in Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties. Hillsborough schools start tomorrow (Aug. 25).

TAMPA BAY – As 55 million children across the country begin heading back to school, AAA urges motorists to slow down and stay alert in neighborhoods and school zones, and to be especially vigilant for pedestrians during before- and after-school hours.

In 2013, more than 330 child pedestrians died and 13,000 were injured nationwide. Florida had the third highest rate of child pedestrian fatalities in the country. More than half of those deaths occurred during school transportation hours. The afternoon hours are particularly dangerous for walking children – over the last decade, nearly one-third of child pedestrian fatalities occurred between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.

“AAA’s ‘School’s Open – Drive Carefully’ awareness campaign is designed to curb unsafe driving behavior in school zones,” said Amy Stracke, executive director, Auto Club Group Traffic Safety Foundation. “We must remind motorists to slow down and stay alert as kids head back to school.”

AAA recommends the following life-saving tips to keep you and your loved ones safe on the road:

Slow Down

  • Speed limits in school zones are reduced for a reason.
  • Children are unpredictable and may have difficulty gauging the distance and speed of an approaching car.
  • Reducing your speed in a school zone can save a life. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling 25 mph is two-thirds less likely to be killed than by a vehicle traveling just 10 mph faster.

Eliminate Distractions

  • Keep your eyes on the road at all times.
  • Avoid activities that take even one hand off the steering wheel.
  • Avoid cell phone use by placing it in a safe place until you arrive at your destination.

Walk/Ride in Safe Places

  • Cross streets only at corners, using crosswalks and obey all traffic signals.
  • If you walk on roads that have no sidewalks, walk facing traffic and as far from the roadway as possible.
  • When biking, ride with the flow of traffic and obey all traffic laws, signs, signals and pavement markings.

Stay Alert and Obey Traffic Rules

  • Check for children on the sidewalk, driveway and around your vehicle before slowly backing up. Expect pedestrians on the sidewalk, especially around schools and in neighborhoods.
  • Stop at stop signs!  Research shows that more than one-third of drivers roll through stop signs in school zones or neighborhoods.
  • Be alert and ready to stop for school buses.  It may be tempting to drive around a stopped school bus, but not only is it dangerous, it is against the law.

AAA’s “School’s Open – Drive Carefully” awareness campaign was launched in 1946 in an effort to prevent school-related child pedestrian traffic crashes.

For information about AAA’s “School’s Open – Drive Carefully” awareness campaign, go to aaa.com.

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