State Officials Highlight Need For School Zone Safety

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TRENTON – New public awareness and education materials, designed to reinforce the life-saving importance of school zone safety, are now available to help parents learn more about the role they play in ensuring their children get to and from school safely, Division of Highway Traffic Safety (DHTS) Director Pam Fischer announced yesterday.

“Traffic in and around school zones can create significant hazards not only for students, but crossing guards, and school and law enforcement officials,” Fischer stated.  “It’s critical for parents to recognize the dangers associated with our transportation system, particularly when it comes to the mix of vehicles and pedestrians, and make sure they set the best example for their children whether they are driving or walking them to school.”

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A new, 10-minute video entitled, “School Zone – Danger Zone,” urges parents to take an active role in discussing with their children traffic safety issues that can occur in school zones.  Produced by the Municipal Excess Liability Joint Insurance Fund (MEL) with support from DHTS, the video highlights the importance of parents knowing and adhering to school drop off procedures, obeying (both children and parents) the instructions of school crossing guards and other officials, and serving as positive role models when behind the wheel.

Children younger than ten years of age are still developing the auditory localization skills needed to hear and anticipate on-coming traffic, making them more vulnerable when walking or bicycling.  In New Jersey, from 2007 to 2009, 19 children between the ages of five and 15 lost their lives and nearly 2,000 were injured, in pedestrian/motor vehicle-related crashes.  While the majority of those injured and killed were boys (64%), both boys and girls are at risk.

“The recent change to New Jersey’s pedestrian safety law, which requires motorists to stop and stay stopped for pedestrians in a marked crosswalk, can help children understand that crosswalks are safety zones,” Fischer explained, noting that “the safe walking habits they develop at an early age can last a lifetime.”

The video also provides information on the function of crossing guards, and the importance of always following their direction, as well as that provided by other school and law enforcement personnel who may be assisting children as they move in and through school zones.

“In the past decade, crashes involving school crossing guards increased nearly 65%.   This is a disturbing statistic, and one that should prompt parents to pause and think about their own driving behaviors,” Fischer stated.  “For instance, ask yourself, “am I driving too fast as I enter or exit the school zone?”   If the answer is yes, consider this: a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling 20 mph, has a 95% chance of survival, as compared to 55% and 15%, respectively, when the vehicle is traveling 30 or 40 mph.”

“The MEL produced this program because far too many crossing guards have been injured or killed in recent years here in New Jersey,” said David N. Grubb, of the New Jersey Municipal Excess Liability Joint Insurance Fund.   “All of us must work as a team to calm traffic around our schools and protect the children and the crossing guards.  We appreciate the help from the State Division of Highway Traffic Safety, the State Association of Chiefs of Police, the New Jersey League of Municipalities, Munich Reinsurance of Princeton, the Brain Injury Association of New Jersey, J. A. Montgomery Risk Control, and member towns who supported us in developing this program.”

The State Parent Teacher Association (PTA) is also partnering with the Division of Highway Traffic Safety to let parents know about the availability of the new video.

“The New Jersey PTA has information on its website regarding safety around our schools while parents are dropping off their children, and we have also included this in our newsletter,” said State Parent Teacher Association President Judy Hyde.  “In addition, we will be providing the school zone safety video to our County PTA’s for distribution to their members.  The NJ PTA is an advocate for the safety of all children and is pleased to be partnering with the Division of Highway Traffic Safety on this project.  We urge all parents to make school zone safety a priority.”

Parents are urged to print out the accompanying tip sheet and use it to facilitate a discussion about traffic safety with everyone in the family.


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