The knapsacks are carefully packed; the new sneakers, notebooks, and pencils are all ready for the first day of school. The halls of your school are shined, and the classrooms are ready and waiting for a new year of learning and accomplishment. But will students at your school be safe this year?
Speeding cars and distracted drivers around your school can make the positive experience of heading back to
school into a hazardous one for children and teens. An alarming study from Safe Kids Worldwide found a 13% increase in pedestrian deaths for 12-19 year olds and a disproportionate number of pedestrian deaths for teens ages 15-19: while they make up 26% of the population, they represent close to half of pedestrian fatalities. The good news is that fatalities for younger children is on the decrease.
How can you ensure that your school zone is safe for ALL kids of all ages?
No driver means to intentionally ignore school zone signs or the perils of speeding when kids are biking, walking, or getting out of cars and buses. But everyone’s got somewhere to go, and driver attention is often elsewhere. What can you do to change that?
- Driver awareness- School zone signs alone are often missed or ignored. Proven strategies such as speed display signs, variable message signs, crosswalks, and flashing beacons can ensure that drivers know they are in a school zone and learn to observe posted speed limits.
- Student awareness- Distracted walking is on the rise. The Safe Kids study found 1 in 4 high school students and 1 in 6 middle school students to be walking distracted. Shockingly, 80% of students were observed to be crossing streets unsafely. Students need to learn to be focused and alert as they walk and bike to school. Educating them to be more observant of their surroundings is key to staying safe.
- Enforcement- Enforcing school zone safety can involve three important aspects.
- School staff and crossing guards need to ensure that school safety polices are adhered to.
- Speed camera systems can be installed so that schools and local police know when, where, and who is speeding in school zones.
- Police can issue warnings or citations to penalize speeding drivers and prevent further infractions.
- Compelling slower speeds- Traffic calming solutions such as speed humps, traffic circles, or speed tables, while more physically invasive than the other options, can help by giving drivers no choice other than to slow down.
The start of a new school year offers a fresh slate to students, teachers, and schools. Keeping school zones safe can help make sure that fresh start leads to a safe year.