Northwest NEWS

August 26, 2002


Schools are opening, drive carefully

from AAA Washington
   As Labor Day marks the beginning of the 2002-2003 school year, motorists are reminded to keep their eyes open and their minds alert.
   "The motorist should take extra precaution when driving in areas with school age children," says Janet Ray, Managing Director, Corporate Communications, AAA Washington. "Some of these kids have very little experience in dealing with traffic situations."
   Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children 14 years of age and under, with 2,343 deaths in 2000. One-fourth of all children who die in these crashes are pedestrians.
   "Everyone needs to take extra precaution during this hectic time of the year," said Ray. "Often, parents can become distracted by excited children and trying to get to work on time. This may cause some drivers not to be focused on basic traffic safety practices."
   All motorists should use extra caution on the roadways. Begin recognizing when school children travel the roadways. Adjusting your schedule by just five or ten minutes can help you avoid busy pedestrian zones and frequent bus stops.
   Drivers should recognize that it is more difficult for a child to judge traffic situations because their peripheral vision is one-third narrower than an adult's. "When driving in school zones, near playgrounds, or in neighborhoods where children play, be prepared for a child to dart out into the roadway," says Ray. "That way, you'll never be taken by surprise and will be able to stop in time."
   To help protect children, motorists are to follow these safety tips:
   Slow down in or near school and residential areas.
   Drive with your headlights on - even during the day - so children and other drivers can see you.
   Look for clues such as School Safety Patrollers, bicycles and playgrounds that indicate children could be in the area.
   Scan between parked cars and other objects for signs that children could dart into the road.
   Practice extra caution in bad weather.
   Always stop for school buses that are loading or unloading students.