As Florida roads become crowded - and hazardous - with students and teachers returning to school, the American Automobile Association (AAA) is offering both insight and advice for driving, walking and cycling safely.
In a recent press release, AAA described going back to school as particularly dangerous time as new and inexperienced drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists share the road in the early morning and afternoon hours.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, traffic crashes kill three children per day. Crash data from the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles also noted that in 2021, 302 children were killed while walking with more than 10,000 injured. Eighty-two children were killed and more than 9,000 were injured while riding their bicycles.
“Drivers can save lives by having a heightened sense of awareness from the moment they leave the driveway,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman for AAA. “You’d expect to see more foot traffic near schools, but neighborhoods and city streets will also be bustling with activity. Since children can move quickly and cross the road unexpectedly, it’s important to constantly scan the road for people while driving and be ready to stop at a moment’s notice. You can also reduce the risk of injury by slowing down and avoiding distractions like using your cell phone or eating while driving.”
A new AAA survey reveals that drivers admit to risky behaviors such as speeding and using their handheld mobile phones while driving through school zones.
“When driving through a school zone, it’s extremely important that you lower your speed and raise your awareness to ensure you can respond to any potential hazards on the roadway,” Jenkins continued. “Remember, in Florida it is illegal to use your handheld mobile device while driving through an active school zone.”
Triple A’s School’s Open Drive Carefully Campaign is reminding everyone to slow down. School zone speed limits are reduced for safety reasons. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 25 miles per hour is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling just 10 miles per hour faster. Also, cars must come to a complete stop as Triple A’s research indicates that more than one-third of drivers roll through stop signs in school zones or neighborhoods. Drivers should come to complete stop while checking carefully for children on sidewalks and in crosswalks before proceeding.
Eliminate distractions are also included in the Drive Carefully Campaign. Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing. And of course, share the road with bicyclists. Triple A says that children on bicycles are often inexperienced, unsteady and unpredictable. When around children, drive slowly and allow at least three feet of distance between your vehicle and a bicyclist.
Triple A encourages everyone to talk to your teen. According to AAA, car crashes are one of the leading causes of death for teens in the United States. Nearly one in four fatal crashes involve teen drivers driving between the hours of 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Get evidence-based guidance and tips at TeenDriving.AAA.com .
Triple A’s tips for pedestrians:
Pedestrians should pay attention to all traffic. Avoid texting and wearing headphones. Use proper sidewalks. If there are no sidewalks, walk against the direction of traffic to see oncoming vehicles. Wear reflective and/or brightly colored clothing.
Triple A’s tips for pedestrians cyclists:
Cyclists should always wear a helmet and neon or brightly colored clothing. Ride in the same direction as traffic and stay as far right as possible. Use bike lanes when available. Do not wear headphones. Cross the street at intersections. Do not pull into the roadway from between parked cars.
Triple A’s tips for for students standing at a bus stop:
Arrive at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive. Stay five steps away from the curb. Be alert and remove headphones. Wait until the bus comes to a complete stop and the bus driver signals to begin boarding.
Triple A explains school bus traffic laws:
Motorists are required to stop when approaching a school bus stopped with its red lights flashing and STOP arms extended. This does not hold true on a divided highway with a raised divider.
For two lane streets, drivers moving in either direction on a two-way street must stop for a school bus displaying a stop signal and must remain stopped until the road is clear of children and the school bus stop arm is withdrawn.
For multi-lane paved medians, all drivers moving in either direction must stop for a school bus displaying a stop signal and must remain stopped until the road is clear of children and the school bus stop arm is withdrawn.
For a divided highway, traffic approaching an oncoming school bus does not need to stop if there is a raised barrier such as a concrete divider or at least five feet of unpaved space separating the lanes of traffic. However, these motorists should slow down and watch for students loading or unloading from the bus.