Fifty-six million children across the country begin heading back to school this month, and AAA is urging motorists to slow down and stay alert in neighborhoods and school zones with its 75th annual School’s Open - Drive Carefully campaign.
The campaign hopes to curb a trend of unsafe driving behavior in school zones and neighborhoods that can result in children’s injury and sometimes death.
Pedestrian injury is the second leading cause of injury-related death in the United States for children ages 5 to 15, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 33,500 children were treated in emergency rooms for pedestrian-related injuries in 2005.
Nearly half (45 percent) of vehicles observed in school zones and residential neighborhoods during a 2003 national observational survey did not come to a complete stop at stop signs; 37 percent tolled through and seven percent did not even slow down.
Additionally, nearly a third of motorists violated stop signs when a child pedestrian was present, and two-thirds exceeded the posted speed limit during the 30-minutes before and after school.
AAA’s School’s Open - Drive Carefully campaign encourages motorists to stay alert in areas where children are present by its local clubs utilizing posters, magnets, bumper stickers, handouts, media outreach and other community initiatives.
For a second year, AAA will also partner with International Speedway Corporation (ISC) to remind race fans at upcoming Sprint Cup Series events that School’s Open - Drive Carefully. Starting this weekend at Watkins Glen International, AAA’s brightly colored school bus icon can be spotted around the track. The campaign will continue during Sprint Cup Series events this fall at Richmond International Raceway, Kansas Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway and Martinsville Speedway.
AAA offers comprehensive lists of tips for motorists, parents and students on school zones, school buses, pedestrian and bicycle safety online at AAA.com/PublicAffairs. Some key tips for motorists on the site include:
• Slow down in or near school or residential areas, and be sure to come to a complete stop at all intersections.
• Look for clues, such as AAA School Safety Patrol members, crossing guards, bicycles and playgrounds, which indicate children could be in the area.
• Scan between parked cars and other objects for signs that children could dart into the road.
• Always stop for school buses that are loading and unloading students. It’s the law.
• Leave a little early, so you are not rushed as you travel to work or school.
• Drive with your headlights on - even during the day - so children and other drivers can see you.