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Drive safe and be alert as school begins next week

K. William Boyer
Washington County News

CHIPLEY- As students begin the school year - in one form or another, drivers are urged to slow down and stay alert in both neighborhoods and school zones.

As schools reopen in different circumstances and phases, drivers are reminded to be cautious on the roads and be alert and cautious around school zones and bus stops. Treat neighborhoods like school zones, as students doing virtual classes could be outside at various times throughout the day.

Inside of car from backseat, including dashboard, hands on steering wheel, and look out front window at road.

Tips to remember while on the road from AAA: 

  • Slow down. Speed limits in school zones are reduced for a reason. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 25 mph is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling just 10 mph faster.
  • Come to a complete stop. Research shows that more than one-third of drivers roll through stop signs in school zones or neighborhoods. Always come to a complete stop, checking carefully for children on sidewalks and in crosswalks before proceeding.
  • Eliminate distractions. Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing. Children can move quickly; crossing the road unexpectedly or emerging suddenly between two parked cars. Reduce risk by not using your cell phone or eating while driving, for example.
  • Follow the law. Florida drivers can be cited for using their handheld device while driving through a designated school crossing or active school zone. Violators commit a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a moving violation, that includes a base $60 fine, not including court costs or other fees, and will have 3 points assessed against the driver license.
  • Watch for school buses. Motorists are required to stop when approaching a school bus that is stopped with its red lights flashing and STOP arms extended. (See the different situations in the diagram below).
  • Watch for bicycles. Children on bicycles are often inexperienced, unsteady and unpredictable. Slow down and allow at least three feet of passing distance between your vehicle and a bicyclist. If your child rides a bicycle to school, require that he or she wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet on every ride. Find videos, expert advice and safety tips at ShareTheRoad.AAA.com.
  • Talk to your teen. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, and nearly one in four fatal crashes involving teen drivers occurs during the after-school hours of 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Get evidence-based guidance and tips at TeenDriving.AAA.com.

According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Between 2008 and 2017:

  • 1,241 people were killed in school-transportation-related crashes — an average of 124 fatalities per year.
  • Twenty-one percent (264) of these fatalities were of school-age children (18 and younger).
  • Occupants of school transportation vehicles accounted for 10 percent of the fatalities
  • Non-occupants (pedestrians, bicyclists, etc.) accounted for 20 percent of the fatalities
  • Most (70%) of the people who lost their lives in these crashes were occupants of the other vehicles involved
  • 97 school-age pedestrians died in school-transportation-related crashes
  • Fifty-five percent were struck by school buses, 1 percent by vehicles functioning as school buses, and 44 percent by other vehicles (passenger cars, light trucks and vans, large trucks, and motorcycles, etc.) involved in the crashes