It's back to school time in Arizona, which means a surge of children will begin commuting to and from school in the coming weeks. In fact, according to the Arizona Department of Education, nearly 700,000 students from pre-school to eighth grade are estimated to head back to the classroom.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2009, children age 15 and younger accounted for 7 percent of all pedestrian fatalities in 2009 and 25 percent of all pedestrians injured in traffic crashes.
"With new schedules and activities, and a bevy of other to-dos, it's easy to become preoccupied during this busy time of year," said Linda Gorman, director of communications and public affairs for AAA Arizona. "That's why it's crucial for all road users to use extra caution when travelling through neighborhoods and near schools."
As Arizona children head back to the classroom, AAA offers the following ABCs of back to school safety to keep children safe:
• Always be alert. Don't rush into and out of driveways. Expect pedestrians on the sidewalk, especially around schools and in neighborhoods. Scan between parked cars and other objects for signs that children could dart into the road.
• Be prepared. Leave early for your destination, build in extra time for congestion and consider modifying your route to avoid school zones and traffic. Additionally, drop children off on school property rather than neighborhood streets.
• Comply with the crossing guard at all school crossings. Stop before reaching a crosswalk when the stop sign is in an upright position and the crossing guard and children are in the crosswalk. Do not proceed until the children and crossing guard have cleared the roadway. Remember that fines double when "STOP WHEN CHILDREN IN CROSSWALK" signs are present.
• Ditch distractions. Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing. Avoid engaging in distracting behavior in order to be a safer driver and set a good example for young passengers and pedestrians.
• Embrace traffic laws. Drive no faster than 15 mph in or near a school zone. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, as few as 10 mph can be the difference between life and death, as a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 15 mph is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed as compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling 25 mph.
Remember that school zones are non-passing zones. Doing so is not only dangerous, but also against the law.
Always stop for school buses that are loading or unloading students. It is illegal to pass a school bus with flashing red lights.
In addition, if your child will be walking or bicycling to school, AAA advises parents and caregivers to review these safety precautions with them, even if you've already done so before:
• Walk only on the sidewalk, and cross the street only at crosswalks.
• Avoid walking in front of, behind or between parked cars. Let them know that even though they can see the vehicle, the driver might not be able to see them.
• Avoid distractions such as headphones, cell phones or video games while walking to and from school.
• Stop at driveways to make sure no vehicles are coming in and out. A person backing out of a driveway may not see a pedestrian in the rear-view mirror.
• For bicyclists, discuss the importance of always wearing a bike helmet, and be sure the helmet fits properly.
• Always obey the crossing guard. Follow instructions, remain a safe distance from the curb and do not cross until the guard indicates that it's safe.
If learning to drive is on your teen's syllabus this year, AAA's new teen driver safety website, Keys2Drive, provides information and resources for both parents and teens. The interactive site provides state-specific licensing information, statistics, driver training tips and additional resources for parents and teen drivers. Additionally, AAA offers its free Dare to Prepare workshops for parents and teens throughout the year.