Drive carefully

Editor's Note: School is underway in many area communities and starts today in Mooreland. School in Woodward starts on Aug. 22.

The new school year is almost here and that means drivers need to remember to watch out for school zones and buses.

According to AAA Oklahoma, nearly one-third of all child pedestrian fatalities in the United States occur between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.

“It’s that time when motorists need to avoid distractions, and be much more aware and careful, as students head back to schools,” said AAA Oklahoma Spokesperson Mark Madeja. “Kids will be walking and biking to school, getting on and off school buses and in and out of cars in carpool lines. All of these situations create extra hazards for drivers as well as the student pedestrians and bicyclists. In addition, many new, inexperienced teen drivers will be driving to school for the first time, creating additional concerns for traffic safety.”

AAA Oklahoma hopes that its School’s Open - Drive Carefully campaign will help reduce child pedestrian fatalities and injuries.

Nearly one-fifth of traffic fatalities of children below the age of 15 are pedestrians, with more school-age pedestrians killed between the hours of 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. than any other time of day, according to AAA Oklahoma.

AAA’s Don’t Drive Intexticated pledge aims to keep drivers from using their phone and watch the road.

“With more distractions than ever, motorists need to make a new commitment to put the phone away and watch out for students,” Madeja said.

AAA Oklahoma offers the seven “life-saving” tips for motorists to start the new school year safely:

1. 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.

2. Eliminate distractions. Children often cross the road unexpectedly and may emerge suddenly between two parked cars. Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing. Put down the phone.

3. Reverse responsibly. Every vehicle has blind spots. Check for children on the sidewalk, driveway and around your vehicle before slowly backing up. Teach your children to never play in, under or around vehicles - even those that are parked.

4. Brake for buses. It may be tempting to drive around a stopped school bus, but not only is it dangerous, it’s against the law, no matter which direction you’re approaching the stopped bus from.

5. Talk to your teen. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, and more than one in four fatal crashes involving teen drivers occur during the after-school hours of 3 to 7 p.m. Get evidence-based guidance and tips at teendriving.AAA.com.

6. 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.

7. Watch for bicycles. Children on bikes are often inexperienced, unsteady and unpredictable. Slow down and allow at least three feet of passing distance between your vehicle and the bicycle. If your child rides a bicycle to school, require that they wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet on every ride.

For more information, visit AAA.com/Safety.

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