With thousands of students heading back to school on Aug. 26 in Baltimore County, the travel organization AAA is kicking off its annual "School's Open, Drive Carefully" campaign.
Through the campaign, AAA hopes to "help reduce the number of school-related pedestrian injuries and fatalities by encouraging motorists to stay alert in school zones, as well as in residential areas where children are present heading to and from school," according to a press release.
"Back-to-school is an exciting time for children. Unfortunately, children are unpredictable and not always mindful of traffic safety," said Myra Wieman, traffic safety manager of the Mid-Atlantic Foundation for Safety and Education. "Children may have difficulty gauging the distance and speed of an approaching car, and may struggle to recognize and react to potentially hazardous situations."
Here are some tips from AAA for motorists to help keep children safe as they return to school:
- "Slow down and follow the speed limit. Whether in a school zone or residential neighborhood, motorists should keep their speeds low and be prepared to stop quickly for school buses and for increased vehicle or pedestrian traffic. Many school zones now employ speed cameras to slow down traffic to further help protect children as they head to and from school.
- Come to a complete stop at intersections with stop signs. Research shows that more than one third of drivers roll through stop signs in school zones or neighborhoods.
- Look for clues of children nearby. Keep an eye out for clues that children are likely nearby, including crossing guards, bicycles and playgrounds.
- Scan between parked cars. Nearly 40 percent of child pedestrian fatalities occurred between the hours of 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., mostly at non-intersection locations, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Children can quickly dart out between parked cars or other objects along the roadway. Motorists should pay close attention not only at intersections, but also along any residential roadways where children could be present.
- Always stop for loading or unloading school busses. It may be tempting to drive around stopped school buses, but not only is it dangerous, it's against the law. Flashing yellow lights on a school bus indicate it is preparing to stop to load or unload children, and motorists should slow down and prepare to stop. Motorists are required to stop their vehicles from either direction of the road, and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop sign is withdrawn and the bus begins moving before they can start driving again.
- Eliminate driver distraction. Motorists should always avoid distractions while driving, but it's particularly important in school zones and residential neighborhoods. Looking away from the roadway for just two seconds doubles the chance of being involved in a crash. Avoid talking on mobile phones, adjusting the radio or any other activities that might take attention away from the roadway. Never text while driving, which is against the law in Maryland.
- Plan ahead and allot extra travel time. Leave early for your destination and build in extra time for congestion. Modify your route to avoid school zones and traffic."