As the new school year begins, AAA Carolinas wants to remind motorists about ways to keep students safe on their way to and from school.
Now is the time to check your child’s safety seat, as according to the NCDOT, motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death among children ages 1-19. Children should ride in the backseat until age 13, but even if they are over 13 they must be the appropriate height to use a seatbelt which is at least 4 feet 9 inches. Children should only be given soft toys that will not cause injury in the event of a crash.
Approximately 815 students die annually and more than 150,000 are injured during travel between school and home –statistics that do not include special activity trips and other school related journeys. The afternoon hours are most dangerous for walking children. Over the last decade, nearly one-third of child pedestrian fatalities have occurred after school hours between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Students going back to school brings school buses back on the roads. On average, there are nearly 3,000 incidents of cars passing stopped school buses every day in North Carolina, according to the NCDOT. Below is a quick refresher of school bus laws for motorists before school starts back:
- On a two-lane road, all traffic from both directions must stop.
- On a two-lane road with a center turning lane, all traffic must come to a stop.
- When on a four-lane road without a median, traffic from both directions must stop.
- In the case of a divided highway with four or more lanes, only traffic following the school bus needs to stop.
- When on a road with four lanes or more with a center turning lane, just traffic following the bus must stop.
The start of school also means a higher volume of traffic on the roads, so leave earlier for your morning commute and be extra vigilant to and from work.
AAA urges motorists to follow these tips for sharing the road:
- Wait your turn:It is illegal to pass a school bus that is stopped to load or unload children. School buses use yellow flashing lights to alert motorists that they are preparing to stop. Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign arm also signal that children are getting on or off the bus.
- Don’t Drive Distracted: Dangerous practices behind the wheel, like eating, grooming, texting and talking on the phone, take a driver’s eyes off the road and can have devastating consequences. AAA encourages all motorists to put down their mobile devices Disconnect and Drive.
- Check the medians:Traffic in both directions must stop on undivided roadways when students are entering or exiting a school bus. On a divided roadway, traffic behind the school bus must stop.
- Extra room:The area 10 feet around a school bus is where children are in the most danger of getting hit. Stop your car far enough from the bus to allow children the necessary space to safely enter and exit the bus.
- Slow down:During busy weekday commutes, remember to slow down, allow for extra commute time and avoid driving distracted on your way to and from work. Keep in mind that fines are doubled in school zones when signs are present.
- Don’t cross the line: Drivers should not block the crosswalk when stopped at a red light or waiting to make a turn. Leave pedestrians with plenty of room to cross safely.
Fatalities that occur while getting on and off the bus are three times greater than those that occur while riding the bus. Approximately 100 children in the United States are killed every year while walking to or from school and another 25,000 sustain injuries as a result of school zone collisions.