As summer draws to a close and the classroom bell rings in a new school year, 55 million children across the United States are heading back to school.
With 13 percent of those school children typically walking or biking to school, AAA Southern New England warns drivers to be especially vigilant for pedestrians during before- and after-school hours -- especially in the afternoon when it's particularly dangerous for walking children. Federal statistics report that over the last decade, nearly one-third of child pedestrian fatalities occurred between 3 and 7 p.m.
Although those numbers have steadily decreased each year, it's important to remember one child death during the school year is one too many, said Fran Mayko, AAA Southern New England's public affairs manager, in a statement.
AAA offers six ways to keep kids safe this school year.
Slow down. There's a reason why speed limits in school zones are reduced. 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 10 mph faster.
Eliminate distractions. Children often cross the road unexpectedly and may emerge suddenly between parked cars. Taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing, research reports.
Reverse responsibly. Every vehicle has blind spots. Check for children on the sidewalk, driveway and around your vehicle before backing up. Teach your children to never play in, under or around vehicles -- even those that are parked.
Come to a complete stop. Research also 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.
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 they wear a properly-fitted bicycle helmet on every ride. Find videos, expert advice and safety tips at ShareTheRoad.AAA.com.
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 to 7 p.m. Get evidence-based guidance and tips at TeenDriving.AAA.com.