Getting back into the swing of school is always an adjustment for kids, parents and all drivers on the road.  Each fall in the United States, over 50 million children attend school and almost 15 % of these kids either walk or ride their bikes to and from school.  Roads are more congested especially around schools and school drop off and pick-up hours.  Driving, pedestrian, bicycle and school bus activities increase.  Drivers need to be more vigilant and pay closer attention.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics reflect that distracted drivers cause 10 percent of injury crashes.  It is estimated that in the past year,  about 3,500 people were killed and 400,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. Many of these distracted drivers are teens.  For drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes, 21 percent of the distracted drivers were distracted by the use of cell phones, whether it was talking or texting.  On average, texting takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds.  If you are driving at 55 mph., that is equivalent to driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.

Child Pedestrian Injuries and Fatalities:

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHSTA) reports that the fall season is the most dangerous time of year for pedestrians.  Almost 30 percent of traffic fatalities in the autumn are pedestrian-related.  With students returning to school, there is an increase in kids walking to and from school.  School days bring an increase in traffic, congestion and inattentiveness.  Kids on foot and on bikes are hurrying to and from school, not always paying enough attention or obeying traffic laws.  Sometimes, parents rushing to drop off their kids are guilty of the same.  More kids are hit by vehicles near schools than anywhere else.

Here are some ways you can more safely share the road with young pedestrians:

  • Slow down and pay attention when kids are present and anticipate their presence before and after school;
  • Take extra care to look out for children in school zones, in residential areas, and near ball fields, playgrounds and parks;
  • Anticipate that kids may jaywalk, fail to yield the right of way, dart out into the street whether on foot or on a bicycle. They take risks and often don’t appreciate or appreciate dangers present. Their behavior and judgment are often unpredictable;
  • Don’t assume the right of way;
  • Don’t block or obstruct crosswalks;
  • Never pass a vehicle stopped for pedestrians;
  • Be alert to blinking warning flashers. Stop and yield the right of way to pedestrians crossing the street whether in a marked crosswalk, at the corner of an intersection or even if they are jay-walking;
  • Be alert to and follow the directions of school traffic sign, school patrol officer or crossing guard;
  • Avoid honking or revving your engine to get the child’s attention or compliance, it will likely scare them and may cause them to panic;
  • If you are dropping your child off at school, familiarize yourself and your children with school drop off and pick-up procedures and follow the procedures;
  • Don’t double park in school zones. It obstructs traffic and visibility of both children and drivers;
  • Avoid unloading your kids in an undesignated area such as across the street from the school;
  • Carpooling reduces congestion at schools.

Child Bicyclist Injuries and Fatalities:

According to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts), California leads the nation in bicycle crash fatalities at 128 per year.  While bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as other roadway users and often share the same lane, bicycles can be difficult to see and are more vulnerable to accident, injury and even death.  This is much more the case for children riding bicycles who are not often more difficult to see  but often times lack the proper experience, skill, judgment and decision making in determining traffic conditions, risks and dangers.

Here are some ways you can more safely share the road with young bicyclists:

  • Anticipate that children riding bicycles may not be familiar with the rules of the road and traffic laws and may not appreciate traffic conditions, hazards and dangers and may take unsafe risks. Drive defensively around bicyclists;
  • Drive defensively and be more vigilant in and around school zones;
  • Use your side mirror and look over your shoulder before opening your car door;
  • Anticipate that a young bicyclist may abruptly turn in front of you without looking or signaling;
  • When passing the bicyclist do so with caution, slow down and leave at least three feet between your vehicle and the bike;
  • If the bicyclist is approaching from the opposite direction and you are making a left turn, allow the rider extra time to pass you before commencing your turn;
  • When turning right, if the bicyclist is on your right, allow him to pass before turning;
  • Watch out for bike riders coming out of driveways and from behind parked cars;

School Bus Safety and Accident Avoidance:

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration  rates school buses as one of the safest forms of transportation.  NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts reflect that riding a bus to school is 13 times safer for a child than riding in a motor vehicle and 10 times safer than walking to school.  More children are hurt outside the school bus than while on it.  Sadly, most children who die in school bus related crashes are  4-7 years old and are hit by a moving vehicle which is illegally passing a stopped school bus.

Here are some ways you can more safely share the road with school busses:

  • It is illegal to pass a stopped school bus that is either loading or unloading children. If the red lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended, traffic in both directions on an undivided road must stop;
  • Stop at least 10 feet from the school bus to safely allow the children to get on or off the bus;
  • Yellow flashing school bus lights means that the bus is preparing to stop to load or unload children;
  • It is illegal to pass a school bus on the right;
  • Anticipate that children getting on or off a school bus may not be familiar with traffic laws and may not appreciate traffic conditions, hazards and dangers and may take unsafe risks.

If your child has been involved in a pedestrian, bicycle ,bus or car accident resulting in injury or death, contact the Law Office of Frederick S. Schwartz for a free, no obligation, confidential consultation with the attorney.