With the 2023-2024 school year getting under way and students returning to campuses and classrooms across New Jersey transportation will undoubtedly be impacted.
AAA reminds drivers and all road users to get back in the mindset of seeing school kids in our neighborhoods and buses on the roads, with a particular focus on safety.
“First and foremost, AAA is reminding drivers to be aware of the increase in traffic around school zones including pedestrians and bicyclists making their way to and from school,” says Tracy Noble, spokesperson for AAA Club Alliance.
“AAA encourages everyone to slow down, limit distractions and look out for each other during this busy time.”
This time of year is particularly dangerous due to young, inexperienced drivers, school buses, student pedestrians and bicyclists all sharing the road in the early morning and afternoon hours. Through its annual ‘School’s Open – Drive Carefully’ public awareness campaign, AAA aims to help reduce fatalities and injuries among child pedestrians and others during this time of increased risk.
More school-age pedestrians are killed between the hours of three and four p.m. than any other time of day.
AAA offers the following tips as the new school year gets under way:
Drop-Off/Pick-Up Safety Tips
- Follow school drop-off and pick-up procedures, and be mindful that these may have changed.
- Don’t double park. It blocks visibility for other children and vehicles.
- Don’t load or unload children across the street from the school.
- Have children exit the vehicle on the “curb side” every time (so they aren’t opening the car door into an oncoming traffic lane or crossing around the front/back of car to get to curb)
- Slow down, eliminate distractions, and watch for children.
School Bus Safety Tips
- Brake for buses. In a typical school year, more than 800,000 students ride school buses in New Jersey. It is against the law to pass a school bus when red lights are flashing and the safety bar is extended. In New Jersey, drivers who violate that law face fines not less than $100, 15 days in jail, or 15 days of community service or both. A violation of the law related to passing stopped school buses is a 5 point penalty for each offense.
- Keep Track of Time – Be aware of the time of day you’re on the road and how that coincides with the school day. More school-age pedestrians are killed from 7 to 8 a.m. and from 3 to 4 p.m. than any other hours of the day.
- Slow Down – Whether in a school zone or residential neighborhood, drivers should keep their speed low and be prepared to stop quickly for increased vehicle or pedestrian traffic.
- Come to a complete stop – Always come to a complete stop, checking carefully for children on sidewalks and in crosswalks before proceeding.
- Eliminate distractions – Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing. Children can be quick, crossing the road unexpectedly or emerging suddenly between two parked cars. Reduce risk by not using your cell phone while driving.
- Obey Traffic Signs and Signals – Unfortunately, many motorists violate stop signs in school zones and residential neighborhoods, with many failing to come to a complete stop, rolling through a stop sign or not slowing down at all. Motorists are also running red stoplights, putting pedestrians and other motorists at risk.
Pedestrian Safety Tips
- Cross only at corners so drivers can see you. Never cross between parked cars or mid-block.
- Use a crosswalk when it’s available. Don’t assume that because you can see the driver, the driver can see you. Always use caution when crossing.
- Look all ways before crossing. Look and listen for cars, pedestrians and bicyclists.
- Once you have confirmed traffic has stopped, cross when the light indicates it is safe to cross without further hesitation so you have time to cross safely.
- Use the crosswalk push-button signal when possible, and cross when the signal allows.
- Watch for cars that are turning left or right when you are crossing.
- Walk on a sidewalk when it is provided. If you must walk in the street, walk facing traffic, on the left side of the road and as far to the left as possible.
- Make it easy for drivers to see you – dress in light colors, wear reflective material or use a flashlight.
- Remove headphones and don’t use cell phones or electronic devices when crossing the street.
- Watch for white lights on the rear of vehicles, signaling backing up in driveways or parking lots.
- Avoid walking alone. Walk with a friend.
AAA Bicycle Safety Tips
- Make sure your child has the skills to ride a bike safely, such as riding in a straight line and signaling to vehicles when turning.
- Choose the safest route to bike to school, one with less traffic and slower speeds. Use bike paths if they are available.
- Make sure your cyclists understand traffic safety rules, such as riding in the same direction as traffic and stopping at all stop signs and signals.
- Explain the importance of wearing a bike helmet to your child. They’re critical to minimizing injury in case of a crash. According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, wearing a helmet can reduce the odds of head injury by half.
- Ride focused and alert. Never use earbuds or electronics while riding.
“Whether it is in designated school zones or on streets throughout town, everyone needs to remain vigilant – put down the phone, focus only on the road, and pay attention to help students get to and from school safely,” says Noble.