An Echo Press Editorial: Pandemic raises risk of school-related crashes
Students aren’t the only ones who should be doing homework as they get back into the school routine.
So should drivers.
They should take a refresher course on how to drive now that school is back in session – this year more than ever. AAA, the auto club group, is urging motorists to be alert and prepared for changes in traffic, especially in light of COVID-19.
“This pandemic could create risky conditions on the roadway as drivers may be unsure of when and where they may encounter children,” said Mark Peterson, Minnesota and Iowa spokesman for AAA. “Drivers should treat neighborhoods like school zones as students taking virtual classes could be outside at various times throughout the day.”
As part of its annual School’s Open, Drive Carefully campaign, AAA points out that drivers should expect to see children along their travel routes throughout the day and to be extremely cautious in neighborhoods and in school zones. School buses are also returning to the roads after a long summer break.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the greatest risk to a child isn’t riding a bus, but approaching or leaving one. From 2008 to 2017, there were 264 school-age children killed in school-transportation-related crashes.
The majority of those students weren’t on the bus; 203 were either walking, waiting for the bus, biking, or in another vehicle.
AAA offers the following advice for drivers this fall:
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. Check 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. Children can move quickly, cross the road unexpectedly or emerge suddenly between parked cars. Reduce risk by not using your cell phone or eating while driving, for example.
Watch for school buses. Motorists are required to stop when approaching a school bus that is stopped with its red lights flashing and STOP arms extended.
Watch for bicycles. Children on bicycles 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.
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 .
This is going to be a challenging school year with COVID-19 causing new ways of teaching and learning at homes and in schools. Don’t add inattentive driving into the mix.