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Making Travel to School Safer

By Bonnie Staring

As kids return to school this fall, we all have some homework to do. Nearly 30 percent of drivers have seen a near-miss or a collision in a school zone, according to a recent study conducted by AMA. 

“The area between where you live and the nearest school is one of the most dangerous places for a child,” says Jeff Kasbrick, AMA’s vice-president of advocacy and operations. “And that shouldn’t be the case.”

Inspiring improved school zone safety

For almost 85 years, AMA has been focused on getting children to school safely. But who is ultimately responsible for helping protect our students? According to Kasbrick, everyone plays a part, from government policymakers to municipalities and school boards, and yes, even motorists. A simple step you can take is having a household discussion about safe school travel. Here’s a quick refresher.

Lesson 1: Stay alert

Both drivers and pedestrians should plan their routes and always be aware of their surroundings throughout the journey. Drivers should always check for pedestrians crossing at intersections or crosswalks and watch for children who may dart into traffic between cars.

Pedestrians of all ages should always use the Point, Pause and Proceed method to cross the street safely. Take the time to ensure all vehicles come to a complete stop and make eye contact with motorists—never assume drivers can see you. And always remember to look in all directions.

Lesson 2: Eliminate distractions

In your vehicle, take care of any weather and traffic checks, GPS settings, music choices, calls or texts before you drive. Eliminate distractions, be alert, stay focused and obey the posted speed limits.

Tell kids—whether walking, biking or leaving a vehicle—to focus on what’s happening around them. They can save the texting, gaming, music, social media and headphone use for when they’ve arrived.

Lesson 3: Follow the school rules

Both drivers and pedestrians should know the locations of crosswalks, school zones and any designated student drop-off/pick-up areas along their routes.

In addition, drivers must obey posted traffic signs—including speed limits—and yield to pedestrians crossing the street. And don’t double or triple park in school zones. While you might feel like you’re saving a few seconds, you’re putting yourself, your kids and other pedestrians at greater risk. Pedestrians should always be sure to cross the street at crosswalks or intersections and follow traffic signs and signals. Parents, take a moment to talk to your children about the dangers of jaywalking. And all adults can set a good example by not jaywalking themselves.

Here are some additional tips on safe school zone driving.