Reading, Writing and Road Rules: AAA Mid-Atlantic Offers Back to School Safety Tips
Earn an A+ in Safety: Tips for parents, students and motorists
PHILADELPHIA, PA (August 31, 2017) – This week and next, more than half a million students across the Philadelphia five-county area will head back to school, which means drivers will once again be sharing the road with school buses, and students walking and biking to and from school or to the bus stop.
AAA Mid-Atlantic and the Mid-Atlantic Foundation for Safety and Education are urging parents, students and all motorists sharing the roads with school buses to put safety first with its annual School’s Open—Drive Carefully campaign.
“It’s not just the students who need to get ready for back-to-school,” says Jana Tidwell, manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Drivers need to put their phones down, look up, and pay attention to help Philadelphia-area students get to and from school safely.”
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) reports that in 2016, there were 349 school bus crashes, up 11 percent over 2015 (314 crashes). There were 449 people injured in school bus crashes last year, up 52 percent over 2015 (296 injuries). Of those injured, 44 were school bus drivers and 204 were school bus passengers.
“Drivers have had the roads to themselves since mid-June,” says Tidwell. “As schools continue to open across the five county area, drivers must remember that their commute time may increase and that leaving home a little earlier can help them get where they need to be on time and with less stress.”
Pennsylvania's School Bus Stopping Law
- Motorists must stop at least 10 feet away from school buses that have their red lights flashing and stop arm extended.
- Motorists must stop when they are behind a bus, meeting the bus or approaching an intersection where a bus is stopped.
- Motorists following or traveling alongside a school bus must also stop until the red lights have stopped flashing, the stop arm is withdrawn, and all children have reached safety.
- If physical barriers such as grassy medians, guide rails or concrete median barriers separate oncoming traffic from the bus, motorists in the opposing lanes may proceed without stopping.
- Do not proceed until all the children have reached a place of safety.
Tips for Motorists
Always Stop for School Buses – 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 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.
Keep Track of Time – Be aware of the time of day you’re on the road and how that coincides with the school day. More school-age pedestrians were killed from 7 to 8 a.m. and from 3 to 4 p.m. than any other hours of the day.
Slow Down – Whether in a school zone or residential neighborhood, motorists should keep their speed low and be prepared to stop quickly for increased vehicle or pedestrian traffic.
Scan Between Parked Cars – Children can quickly dart out between parked cars.
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.
Obey Traffic Signs – Unfortunately, many motorists violate stop signs in school zones and residential neighborhoods –many failing to come to a complete stop, rolling through a stop sign or not slowing down at all
Tips for Parents and Students
Teach children the importance of using crosswalks and how to look left-right-left before crossing.
Always walk on the sidewalk. If there is not a sidewalk, walk facing traffic.
Try to drop children off where they won’t have to cross the street to reach their destinations. Avoid the dangers of jaywalking and encourage kids to always cross in clear view of traffic, never from between parked cars.
Just as you wouldn’t text and drive – don’t text and walk. Stay alert to your surroundings.
If Your Child Rides a Bike to School
- Make sure your child has the skills to ride a bike safely, such as riding in a straight line and signaling to vehicles when turning.
- Choose the safest route to bike to school – one with less traffic and slower speeds. Use bike paths if they are available.
- Make sure your cyclists understand traffic safety rules, such as riding in the same direction as traffic and stopping at all stop signs and signals.
- Explain the importance of wearing a bike helmet to your child. They’re critical to minimizing injury in case of a crash. According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, wearing a helmet can reduce the odds of head injury by half.
- Ride focused and alert. Never use earbuds or electronics while riding.
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