Slow down around schools

School is back in session and for drivers that means children walking to and from school, often through busy intersections.

Keep a close eye out for kids, especially near schools and in the morning and afternoon hours. Younger children have a tendency to dart in between cars as they race to or from school. Drivers should pay special attention. There’s a reason schools are surrounded by 20 mph speed limits. There’s no excuse for speeding through a school zone when children are present. Should there be an accident, studies show that “a child has an 80 to 90 percent rate of survival if struck by a car traveling 20 mph, as opposed to a 90 percent chance of death if the car is traveling only five to 10 miles an hour faster,” according to a news release.

After the summer months of no children in and around schools, it can be difficult to get back into the routine of slowing down in school zones and watching for children. But by paying special attention when driving, a horrible accident can be averted.

“This is a critical time of year,” said Ray Palermo, spokesman for Teachers’ Insurance Plan. “Drivers need to re-acclimate themselves to having children on and near the road, particularly at rush hours. And, both children and their parents need to get back into their good traffic safety habits.”

In 2000, 29 percent of pedestrians injured were younger than 15 years old; 43 percent of school-aged pedestrian fatalities occurred between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and nearly one out of four (23 percent) children between the ages of 5 and 9 killed in traffic crashes were pedestrians, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The following are safety tips for parents and drivers which can be found on the Web site, www.teachers.com.

• Everyone should wear a seatbelt, and children should be in age- and size-appropriate car seats.

• Stay focused on driving and don’t be distracted by kids in the car or with other activities.

• Slow down in school zones. Driving just 5 mph over the speed limit increases both the risk of hitting a child and the severity of any injuries.

• You never know if children crossing the street are paying attention, so remain stopped until the child has crossed not only your lane of traffic, but the adjacent lane as well.

• Never pass a vehicle that has stopped at a crosswalk, as they may be waiting for someone to cross.

• Do not pass a school bus when its red lights are flashing, even if it is on the other side of the street.

• Use extra care in areas where children may enter the road from between parked vehicles or other things that block drivers’ view of the road. And, watch out for bicycles.

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