As millions of children start a new school year in Texas, distracted driving deaths are on the rise in many communities around the state. AAA Texas warns drivers and parents that areas in, and around, school zones can become dangerous due to the amount of traffic mixed with young, inexperienced pedestrians and teen drivers. To prevent injuries and deaths to students going back to school, AAA Texas reminds drivers to slow down, remain alert and never drive intexticated especially in school zones and neighborhoods around schools.
13 percent of U.S. children walk or bike to school and afternoon hours are particularly dangerous for children walking near, or inside of, school zones. Over the last decade, nearly one-third of child pedestrian fatalities occurred between 3 and 7 p.m. Drivers should be aware that young children may enter roadways unexpectedly. Unintentional pedestrian injuries are the fifth leading cause of injury-related death in the United States for children ages 5 to 19. Teenagers are at the greatest risk. Teens have a death rate twice that of younger children and account for half of all child pedestrian deaths. In addition, approximately one of every five children under the age of 15 who were killed in traffic crashes were pedestrians.
These factors, in addition to recently released statistics from TxDOT showing many Texas communities experienced an increase in the number of fatal distracted driving crashes, 2016 to 2017, create a risky situation in regards to school zones.
“Every distracted driving death and injury is preventable. Drivers must exercise good judgment in and around school zones and be extra cautious as young children may cross roadways unexpectedly,” said AAA Texas spokesperson Daniel Armbruster. “Drivers should obey all posted speed limits, pay extra attention around school zones and never drive distracted. Parents also play a vital role in protecting students by reviewing traffic safety rules with them before school begins and throughout the year.”
As students head back to school, AAA Texas recommends the following for drivers and parents:
- 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. A difference between 25 mph and 35 mph can save a life.
- 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.
- 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.
- Talk with children about traffic safety and teach them to use marked crosswalks and corners to cross the street. Remember that intersections are usually the safest location for children to cross, and the majority of child pedestrian deaths occur at non-intersections. Always use crosswalks yourself to model safe behavior for your child.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- If you are a parent picking up or dropping off a child at a school, familiarize yourself with school drop-off and pick-up practices and always follow the rules of the school.
AAA Texas is also committed to addressing the growing problem of distracted pedestrians. Parents are encouraged to speak with students about the following:
- Wait until you get to your destination before calling people, texting or gaming. If you have to text or make a call while walking, stop and find a safe location.
- Avoid using hands-free devices while walking – Hang up and walk!
- Remove your headphones or turn down the volume of your music so you can hear what’s going on around you.
- Keep watching out for cars while crossing the street. There are a lot of distracted drivers out there so keep looking all around you while in and around crosswalks.
- Be a role model – Pay attention while you walk and if you see your friends and family distracted while they walk – speak up.