As Schools Reopen And Traffic Increases, Safety Group Urges Caution

School kids across the country are heading back to classes, and that means more buses picking up and dropping off students, more people walking and bicycling to and from school or to bus stops, and more congestion.

That also means more crashes may occur.  

A new survey, conducted and recently released by the AAA automotive group, found that many drivers admitted to speeding in school zones and cutting off school buses.

“Drivers should have a heightened sense of awareness from the moment they leave the driveway,” Mark Jenkins, a spokesman for the AAA’s second largest club in North America, The Auto Club Group, said in a statement. 

“Students will be walking or pedaling throughout neighborhoods and alongside city streets, making their way to-and-from school or the bus stop. Many of them might not be looking for you, so make sure you’re looking for them,” Jenkins added.

In an online survey of 400 Florida residents who were questioned about their daily commute or regular driving route, 56% said they drive through a school safety zone and 50% said they encounter school bus stops. 

The respondents admitted to doing the following risky driving behaviors at least once in the past 3 months:

  • 37% — exceeding the speed limit while driving in active school zones
  • 35% — using their hand-held cell phone while driving in active school zones
  • 28% — driving around a school bus while its red lights are flashing
  • 28% — cutting off a school bus because it’s driving too slow

The survey is part of the AAA’s School’s Open Drive Carefully campaign, which provides a series of recommendations, including safety tips for students at bus stops, guidelines for drivers, and an explanation of school bus traffic laws.  

The safety group is urging drivers to be careful, to slow down, eliminate distractions, watch for pedestrians and bicyclists, and obey traffic laws when passing bus stops and driving through neighborhoods and school zones, areas with extremely high vehicle, bicycle and pedestrian traffic. 

“When driving through a school zone, lower your speed and increase your awareness, to ensure you can respond to any potential hazards on the roadway,” the AAA cautioned, noting that children on bicycles can be unpredictable and can make sudden changes in direction.

“Driving around a school bus while its red lights are flashing is extremely dangerous,” Jenkins said. “Oftentimes the reason people illegally pass school buses is because they are in a hurry. Please allow yourself extra time on the road, so you are not tempted to take unnecessary risks on the road that endanger the lives of children.”

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