It is back-to-school time in the U.S., which means 50 million more reasons drivers should concentrate on driving safely — especially around schools, school buses, bus stops, crosswalks and bicycles. About 50 million students attend America’s public elementary and secondary schools. Over 35 million are in prekindergarten through 8th grade. Most have been on summer break and will be heading back to school in the coming weeks. Kids will be commuting to school on foot, by bicycle and by school bus or private vehicles.
Nearly 300 children were killed in school transportation-related crashes from 2007-2016. These are preventable deaths, lives cut tragically short. 98 of these children were pedestrians struck by a vehicle. School buses are the safest way for children to commute to and from school. Yet, nearly two-thirds of school-age pedestrians fatally-injured in school transportation-related crashes are struck when getting on or off a school bus – either by the bus (62%) or other vehicles (38%). So all drivers have got to be extra careful in proximity to school buses and parents need to teach children how to safely board and exit a bus.
Parents should also impress upon their children that they should not jaywalk and should always look both ways (left-right-left) before crossing any street. And, of course, those children riding bicycles should wear a good bike helmet. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration website offers many more tips for parents to help their children travel safely to and from school.
Drivers should be especially vigilant during the morning and afternoon hours when children are commuting to and from school. From 2007-2010, 80% of school-age pedestrians killed were struck by vehicles between 6:00-8:00 a.m. and 2:00-5:00 p.m. 72% of the 174 children fatally injured while in school buses or other vehicles were killed during those same hours. Children can move quickly, and it’s more important than ever for drivers to be alert and able to react quickly and not be impaired by fatigue, medications or any other substances.
There is no phone call, text, e-mail or social media post more important than the safety of children. There is no destination more urgent than the safety of children. So let’s all do a better job of looking out for one another, especially America’s youngsters, and always while driving.