As students around the state trade backyard pools for backpacks and books, streets will become busier with back-to-school commuters.

However, the return of the school year can also bring an increase in collisions as more drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists will resume sharing the road during peak commute times. In fact, in Arizona, there were 3,513 crashes in 2008 involving pedestrians and bicyclists.

As a result, AAA would like to provide the following tips for schoolchildren and drivers during this busy back-to-school season:

• Scan between parked cars and other objects for signs that children could dart into the road.

• Eliminate distractions. Taking your eyes off the road for two seconds doubles your chance of being involved in a crash. Avoid engaging in distracting behavior in order to be a safer driver and set a good example for young passengers and pedestrians.

• Plan ahead. Leave early for your destination and build in extra time for congestion. Modify your route to avoid school zones and traffic, if possible.

• Drop children off on school property, as opposed to neighborhood streets.

• Obey traffic laws. Drive no faster than 15 mph in or near a school zone. Fines double when "Stop When Children in Crosswalk" signs are present. Remember, 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.

• Obey the crossing guard at all school crossings. Stop before reaching a crosswalk when the stop paddle 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 completely cleared the roadway.

In addition, if your children will be walking or bicycling to school, review the following safety precautions with them:

• 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.

• 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.

Lastly, to recognize those who've made the ultimate pledge to school traffic safety, AAA Arizona will also begin accepting nominations for its fourth annual Crossing Guard of the Year Award.

School administrators, faculty, staff, parents, students and community members are invited to share why they believe their candidate should be the Crossing Guard of the Year. Nomination forms can be downloaded online at

Linda Gorman is the communications and public affairs director for AAA Arizona. Reach her at (602) 650-2716 or


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