In the weeks that children return to school, danger lurks on the roads for parents, youth, children and pedestrians. According to the National Center for Safe Routes to Schools, between 20 and 25 percent of all morning traffic in the US is from drivers dropping off children at school. With more traffic on the streets, the number of accidents around schools increases. This is a phenomenon that we always observe in our law firm, The Ward Law Group, at the beginning of the school year. My firm represents victims of traffic accidents and part of our job is to educate all drivers on how to prevent crashes, especially when the passengers are children returning to school. As a mother of two young girls and a lawyer, I want to share the following precautionary measures to avoid accidents when dropping off your children at schools:
- Hang up. Driving and talking on the phone or texting while passing through a school zone can be deadly. Children may not pay attention when crossing the street, so it is crucial that the driver is paying attention to react quickly. Put the phone in the glove compartment or another place that you cannot reach while driving, to reduce the temptation to look at your text messages while in school zones.
- Never pass a stopped school bus. Not only is it illegal to pass a school bus that has stopped to load or unload children, but this can cause a pedestrian accident.
- Be alert to school zones and speed restrictions on these roads. Drivers who fear being late for work (and want to save time) often ignore the speed limit, causing accidents.
- Keep as much space as possible between your car and the school bus in front of you. If the bus stops suddenly and you are very close, you could collide with the bus full of children.
- Do not double park to drop off or pick up your children from school, as it will block visibility for other children and vehicles.
- Do not drop off or pick up children across the street from school in the middle of a street while stopped at a traffic light. This can cause other cars to collide and expose your child to street traffic at the same time.
- Before starting the car, make sure that all passengers in the front and back seats, and all children under 18 years of age have their seat belts correctly. Children 5 and under must be secured with a federally approved child restraint device. Children 4 and 5 years old must be in a child seat or booster seat, known as a booster.
- Many of the accidents are caused by teens who are driving to school for the first time. It is important to talk with your children about the importance and responsibility of paying attention when behind the wheel and the consequences of distracted driving. Sending or reading a text message takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds, and at a speed of 55 mph, it’s the equivalent of crossing an entire soccer field with your eyes closed. In 2015, 3,477 people died and 391,000 were injured in car accidents due to distracted drivers. What is striking is that adolescents were the largest age group reported as distracted at the time of the fatal accident.