ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — Arkansas students are in final preparations before heading back to school as many are having their first day of classes in the coming weeks.
Students will be getting to school in a variety of different ways including driving themselves, their parents driving, or biking and the Automobile Association of America is asking drivers to be cautious when entering school zones to prevent traffic-related injuries and deaths.
According to AAA, car accidents are the leading cause of death for children and adolescents. AAA says the problem escalates during the months kids are in school, with the afternoon school hours being particularly dangerous. Nearly one-third of child pedestrian fatalities occur between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., research shows.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 3,138 people died in distracted-related crashes in the U.S. in 2020, accounting for 8.1% of all roadway fatalities, an average of nine people killed each day in crashes that are totally preventable.
Additionally, another 400,000 people are injured each year in distracted-related crashes. However, AAA says the true numbers of deaths and injuries are likely much higher because distracted driving is often underreported or difficult to determine as the cause of a crash.
School-aged children will soon be walking to and from campuses, so drivers should prepare for them. If you drive distracted you are ‘intexticated’ behind the wheel, and you could cause the same tragedies as a driver who is impaired by alcohol or drugs. So, make it a habit to put smartphones out of sight and stay alert on the road, especially in school zones, in neighborhoods, around parks, and near bus stops.AAA Spokesperson Nick Chabarria
To keep kids safe this school year AAA reminds drivers to:
- Eliminate distractions and put down the cell phone. Children often cross the road unexpectedly and may emerge suddenly between parked cars. Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing.
- Slow down. Speed limits in school zones are reduced for a reason. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling 25 mph is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling just 10 mph faster. A difference between 25 mph and 35 mph can save a life.
- Talk with teens. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, and more than one-quarter of fatal crashes involving teen drivers occur during after-school hours.
- Come to a complete stop. Research shows that more than one-third of drivers roll through stop signs in school zones or on neighborhood streets. Always come to a complete stop, checking carefully for children on sidewalks and in crosswalks before continuing.
- Watch for bicycles. Children on bikes can be 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 that they wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet on every ride.
- Watch for school buses. Yellow flashing lights indicate the bus is preparing to stop to load or unload children. Drivers should slow down and prepare to stop. Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate the bus has stopped and children are getting on or off. Drivers MUST stop and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop-arm withdraws, and the bus begins to move before they can start driving again.
AAA notes parents and guardians are also key to keeping children safe during the trip to and from school. Adults should walk with children to familiarize them with the route to school and point out potential traffic hazards.
Students walking to and from school should:
- Wait until you get to your destination before calling people, texting or gaming. If you must 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.
- Watch out for cars while crossing the street. There are a lot of distracted drivers out there so look 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.
For more information about AAA’s traffic safety initiative, “Don’t Drive Intoxicated. Don’t Drive Intexticated,” visit aaa.com/dontdrivedistracted to read real stories of lives impacted by distracted driving, watch PSAs, and view a new distracted driving documentary called “Sidetracked.”