School’s open, drive carefully

Posted at 6:14 AM, Sep 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-04 10:59:50-04

The day after Labor Day marks the first day of school for many students in Virginia.

Tuesday morning there will be school buses, teen drivers and young walkers all heading for school in addition to the normal traffic and congestion.

According to NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), 233 child pedestrians were killed in 2015 with the highest weekday percentage of child pedestrian fatalities occurring between 3pm to 5:59pm.

AAA’s School’s Open – Drive Carefully campaign is held during the first weeks of school to remind drivers to be extra vigilant before and after school.  By increasing awareness especially near school zones, we can reduce the number of school-related pedestrian injuries and fatalities.

“In 2016, Virginia saw more than 246 child pedestrians’ injuries and three fatalities in children age 15 and under, which is significantly more than the year before with one fatality,” states Georjeane Blumling, Vice President of Public Affairs for AAA Tidewater Virginia. “AAA’s School’s Open – Drive Carefully awareness campaign was designed in 1946 to curb a trend of unsafe driving behavior in school zones and neighborhoods that can result in children’s injury and death.”

AAA offers helpful tips to keep kids safe this school year:

1.    Slow down.  Speed limits in school zones are reduced for a reason. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling 25 mph is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling just 10 mph faster. A difference between 25 mph and 35 mph can save a life.

2.    Eliminate distractions. Children often cross the road unexpectedly and may emerge suddenly between two parked cars. Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing.

3.    Reverse responsibly.  Every vehicle has blind spots. Check for children on the sidewalk, driveway and around your vehicle before slowly backing up. Teach your children to never play in, under or around vehicles—even those that are parked.

4.    Talk to your teen. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, and more than one-quarter of fatal crashes involving teen drivers occur during the after-school hours of 3 to 7 p.m. Get evidence-based guidance and tips at

5.    Come to a complete stop. Research shows that more than one-third of drivers roll through stop signs in school zones or neighborhoods. Always come to a complete stop, checking carefully for children on sidewalks and in crosswalks before proceeding.

6.    Watch for bicycles. Children on bikes are often inexperienced, unsteady and unpredictable. Slow down and allow at least three feet of passing distance between your vehicle and the bicycle.  If your child rides a bicycle to school, require that they wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet on every ride. Find videos, expert advice and safety tips at