STATE—As the end of summer rapidly approaches and millions of children are preparing to return to school next week, the AAA New Jersey Automobile Club is urging motorists stay alert and drive carefully in neighborhoods and school zones, through its 75th annual “School’s Open-Drive Carefully” campaign.
“Children can get caught up in the excitement of the ‘back-to-school’ season frenzy and forget to watch out for cars,” explains Michele Mount, director of public affairs for the Florham Park-based club. “Some children have trouble making accurate judgments about traffic speed and distance, so drivers need to be particularly alert and aware when driving in school zones and neighborhoods.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pedestrian injury is the second leading cause of injury-related death in the United States for children between the ages of five and 15.
AAA’s “School’s Open-Drive Carefully” campaign encourages motorists to stay alert in areas where children are present, particularly during the times right before and right after school, when children are most likely to be present. Motorists should be on the lookout for children who may dart into the street near school zones, playgrounds, bus stops and in neighborhoods. School-age children can be especially vulnerable in areas with heavy traffic volume, vehicles parked on the street, higher posted speed limits and few pedestrian-control devices.
“They often don’t realize it, but parents create traffic safety hazards in school zones,” continues Mount. “Schools designate specific drop-off arid pick-up zones to optimize safety and minimize risks, but, by disobeying these zones they create a dangerous situation for children, including their own.”
As part of the “School’s Open – Drive Carefully” campaign, the AAA New Jersey Automobile Club offers the following tips to keep school children safe:
• Stop at stop signs. Studies show that more than one-third of motorists in school zones or neighborhoods just “roll through” intersections with a stop sign.
• Slow dawn when driving near schools and through residential areas.
• If you see a ball (or a toy or a dog) come flying across the street, assume a kid will come running after it. Slow down or stop so you can anticipate children entering the street suddenly and without looking.
• Drive with your headlights on – even during the day – so children and other drivers can see you.
• Watch for children darting out from between oars, especially near intersections. Be careful when driving near parked trucks and SUVs, as it is difficult to see kids behind vehicles.
• Look for clues — such as AAA School “Safety Patrol” members, crossing guards, bicycles and playgrounds — all are indicators that children could be in the area.
• Practice extra caution when driving in adverse weather conditions.
• Always stop for school buses – it’s the law – and use extra caution around other “kid-friendly” vehicles. Kids piling out of the family minivan or stepping off public transportation often don’t remember to look both ways before crossing the street.
• Always observe the posted speed limit in school zones and residential areas, as well as other places where children and teens congregate, including shopping malls and ball fields.
• Pay particular attention near schools during the early morning and early afternoon hours.
“Drivers should always be alert and observant to their surroundings, but even more so around children,” concludes Mount. “Remember, school’s open … drive carefully.”
The AAA New Jersey Automobile Club, through offices in Florham Park, Randolph, Springfield and West Orange, provides automotive, travel, insurance, financial and educational services to residents of Essex, Morris and Union counties.