TOWSON, MD (September 4, 2018) – While Allegany and Garrett County students headed back to school last week, today the remainder of Maryland’s school students start the new school year.
AAA Mid-Atlantic and its foundation, the Mid-Atlantic Foundation for Safety and Education, are urging motorists to slow down and stay alert in neighborhoods and school zones with its annual School’s Open—Drive Carefully campaign.
AAA’s School’s Open—Drive Carefully national campaign aims to help reduce the number of school-related pedestrian injuries and fatalities by encouraging motorists to stay alert in school zones, as well as in residential areas where children are present heading to and from school. The campaign utilizes posters, magnets, bumper stickers, handouts, yard signs, media outreach and other community initiatives to reach motorists.
“As the remainder of Maryland’s schools re-open today, motorists must remember to be extra alert, slow down and observe the lower speed limits in school zones and residential areas, as children gather at neighborhood bus stops or are walking to and from school,” said Ragina Cooper Averella, Manager of Public and Government Affairs at AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Additionally, drivers must remember it’s the law to stop, in either direction of the road, for school buses when their lights are flashing red, as children may be crossing the street to either board the bus or get off.”
In 2016, nearly one-fifth (20 percent or 245) of the 1,233 children 14 years and under killed in traffic crashes were pedestrians, an increase of five percent from 2016, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
“More school-age pedestrians have been killed from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. than any other time of the day,” added Averella. “Parents and guardians are urged to talk to their children about traffic rules and safety.”
AAA’s School Safety Patrollers play a role in helping their classmates get to and from the school building safely by assisting at crosswalks, carpool areas, and bus loading and unloading zones.
In the Mid-Atlantic region, the elementary school-targeted program relies on student volunteers trained by a Traffic Safety Manager with the Mid-Atlantic Foundation for Safety and Education and are supervised by an elementary school staffer – typically a teacher. The national program is available in AAA Mid-Atlantic’s five-state region, including Maryland, and Washington, D.C.
“Patrollers receive comprehensive training in the fundamentals of traffic safety, working in many cases, with local law enforcement. They do not direct traffic, but they help students understand when it is safe to enter roadways,” said Myra Wieman, Traffic Safety Program Manager with the Mid-Atlantic Foundation for Safety and Education. “Patrollers learn the importance of teamwork and develop self-confidence and a sense of responsibility. Their duties earn respect and recognition from peers, schools administrators and community leaders.”
As part of the School’s Open—Drive Carefully campaign, the auto club and the Mid-Atlantic Foundation for Safety and Education offer the following tips for motorists to help keep children safe as they return to school.
Additional advice for motorists, parents and students can be found on the Foundation’s web page at AAA.com/Foundation. Topics include a variety of tips on school zone, school bus, pedestrian and bicycle safety.
Slow down and follow the speed limit. Whether in a school zone or residential neighborhood, motorists should keep their speed low and be prepared to stop quickly for school buses and for increased vehicle or pedestrian traffic. Many school zones now employ speed cameras to slow down traffic to further help protect children as they head to and from school.
Come to a complete stop at intersections with stop signs. Research shows that more than one third of drivers roll through stop signs in school zones or neighborhoods.
Look for clues of children nearby. Keep an eye out for clues that children are likely nearby such as AAA School Safety Patrol members, crossing guards, bicycles and playgrounds.
Scan between parked cars. During weekdays, the highest percentage of child pedestrian deaths, 31 percent, occurred from 3:00 p.m. – 5:59 p.m. Children can quickly dart out between parked cars or other objects along the roadway. Motorists should pay close attention not only at intersections, but along any residential roadways where children could be present.
Always stop for loading or unloading school buses. It may be tempting to drive around stopped school buses, but not only is it dangerous, it’s against the law.
Flashing yellow lights on a school bus indicate it is preparing to stop to load or unload children, and motorists should slow down and prepare to stop.
Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate the bus has stopped, and children are getting on and off. Motorists are required to stop their vehicles from either direction of the road, and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop sign is withdrawn and the bus begins moving before they can start driving again. If a road has a median separation, motorists driving from the opposite direction of the stopped school bus are not required to stop.
Not stopping for a school bus can result in costly fines to motorists, according to the Maryland State Police. A $570 citation and up to 3 points can be assessed to a license for failure to stop for a school bus that is flashing red lights.
Eliminate driver distraction. Motorists should always avoid distractions while driving, but it is particularly important in school zones and residential neighborhoods. Looking away from the roadway for just two seconds doubles the chance of being involved in a crash. Avoid talking on cell phones, adjusting the radio or any other activities that might take attention away from the roadway. Never text while driving, which is against the law in Maryland.
Plan ahead and allot extra travel time. Leave early for your destination and build in extra time for congestion. Modify your route to avoid school zones and traffic.
The Mid-Atlantic Foundation for Safety and Education also urges parents and caregivers to instruct children in the “A-B-Cs” of traffic safety:
A – Always obey school crossing guards and AAA school safety patrols.
B – Look both ways every time you cross the street.
C – Use crosswalks and corners to cross the roads even when cars are not around.
D – Don’t run or rush, and do remember that drivers can’t always see you.
E – Even and especially when it is raining, snowing, or cold, follow the safety rules.
F – Face it: you are no match for a car. They are faster and bigger, and they can be a danger to kids, so watch out!
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AAA provides automotive, travel and insurance services to 58 million members nationwide and more than 937,000 members in Maryland. AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years. The not-for-profit, fully tax-paying member organization works on behalf of motorists, who can now map a route, find local gas prices, discover discounts, book a hotel and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android. For more information, visit AAA.com.