DENVER – The bad news: With thousands of students headed back to school as the new year kicks off, summer is on its way out the door. The good news: There are many, many warm August and crisp fall days still ahead of us. That means thousands of Colorado students will be taking to the streets on their way to and from school – with approximately 15 percent of kids regularly walking or biking to their classes.
To that end, AAA Colorado urges drivers to be especially vigilant for pedestrians before and after school hours. The afternoon hours are particularly dangerous – over the last decade, nearly one in four child pedestrian fatalities occurred between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
These tips for motorists can keep kids safe this school year:
- Slow down. Speed limits in school zones are reduced for a reason. 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 just 10 mph faster.
- 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.
- Eliminate distractions. Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing. And children can be quick, crossing the road unexpectedly or emerging suddenly between two parked cars. Reduce risk by never using your cell phone or eating while driving, for example.
- Reverse responsibly. No matter how technologically advanced, every vehicle has blind spots. Check for children on the sidewalk, in the driveway, and around your vehicle before slowly backing up. Teach your children to never play in, under, or around vehicles.
- 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 a bicyclist. If your child rides a bicycle to school, require that he or she 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 nearly one in four fatal crashes involving teen drivers occurs during the after-school hours of 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Get evidence-based guidance and tips at TeenDriving.AAA.com.
And, while it's generally recognized that distracted driving is dangerous, pedestrians of all ages have a responsibility to prevent distracted walking:
- 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.
"The start of the school year doesn't mean the end of summer fun – far from it," said AAA Colorado spokesman Skyler McKinley. "In fact, this is one of the most exciting times of the year as kids dive headfirst into their studies, make new friends, and continue to take advantage of Colorado's warm weather. We share a responsibility to keep them safe."
About AAA Colorado
More than 675,000 members strong, AAA Colorado is the state's greatest advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. As North America's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 53 million members with travel, insurance, financial, and automotive-related services - as well as member-exclusive savings. For more information, visit AAA.com.