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AAA Urges Drivers to Stay Alert as Students Return to School

AAA provides safety tips for drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists

B-Roll for Media

NASHVILLE, Tenn., (August 9, 2023) — As students across Tennessee are gearing up to head back to school, AAA is reminding drivers to stay alert and avoid unsafe driving behaviors in school zones and at school bus stops. This time of year is particularly dangerous due to the combination of young, inexperienced drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists who will all share the road in the early morning and afternoon hours.

"School zones and bus stops can become risky and dangerous places for students if safety is not kept top of mind. That's why the AAA School's Open – Drive Carefully awareness campaign was created — to remind drivers of the unique challenges present in the early days of the back-to-school season," said Stephanie Milani, Tennessee Public Affairs Director, AAA – The Auto Club Group. "Our goal is to educate and remind drivers of the need to curb unsafe driving behaviors, slow down and stay alert in areas where children may be present."

A new survey from AAA found that over half of Tennesseans' daily commutes take them through either school zones or school bus stops, yet only 76% of residents felt very confident that they knew the laws for passing a school bus when its red flashing lights are activated.

Alarmingly, 5% of residents were not at all confident they knew the laws for passing a school bus. 14% of respondents admitted to driving around a school bus while its red lights were flashing and its stop arm was extended.

The survey also found that drivers admitted to risky driving behaviors when driving through school zones:

  • 42% admitted to speeding in an active school zone.
  • 32% admitted to using their hand-held cell phone while driving in active school zones.

"When driving through a school zone, it's extremely important that you lower your speed and raise your awareness to ensure you can respond to any potential hazards," Milani continued. "Remember, in Tennessee it is illegal to use your handheld mobile device while driving through an active school zone."

Top AAA Safety Tips for Drivers

  • Slow down. Speed limits in school zones are reduced for a reason. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 25 mph is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling just 10 mph faster.
  • 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.
  • Eliminate distractions. Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing.
  • Share the road with bicyclists. Children on bicycles are often unsteady, inexperienced, and unpredictable. Slow down and allow at least three feet of passing distance between your vehicle and a bicyclist.
  • Talk to your teen. Car crashes are one of the leading causes of death for teens in the United States, and nearly one in four fatal crashes involving teen drivers occurs during the after-school hours of 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Top AAA Safety Tips for Students

For Pedestrians

  • Pay attention at all times. Avoid texting or wearing headphones, so you can detect nearby traffic.
  • Use sidewalks where available. If not, walk against the direction of traffic so you can see oncoming vehicles.
  • Make yourself easier to be seen by wearing reflective, bright colored clothing.

For Bicyclists

  • Wear a helmet and neon or bright colored clothes.
  • Ride in the same direction as traffic and stay as far to the right as possible. Use bike lanes when you can.
  • Do not wear headphones so you can detect approaching traffic.
  • Cross the street at intersections. Do not pull into the roadway from between parked cars.

For Students at the Bus Stop

  • Arrive at least 5 minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive.
  • Stay five steps away from the curb/road.
  • Be alert and remove headphones so you can hear oncoming traffic.
  • Wait until the bus comes to a complete stop and the bus driver signals for you to board.

School Bus Traffic Laws Explained

TN SODC - Do i need to stop graphic.jpg

Motorists are required to stop when approaching a school bus that is stopped with its red lights flashing and STOP arms extended. The only exception is on a divided highway with a raised divider. Here is an explanation of the laws:

  • Two Lane StreetAll drivers moving in either direction on a two-way street must stop for a school bus displaying a stop signal, and must remain stopped until the road is clear of children AND the school bus stop arm is withdrawn.
  • Multi-Lane Paved MedianAll drivers moving in either direction must stop for a school bus displaying a stop signal, and must remain stopped until the road is clear of children AND the school bus stop arm is withdrawn.
  • Divided HighwayTraffic approaching an oncoming school bus does not need to stop if there is a raised barrier such as a concrete divider or at least five feet of unpaved space separating the lanes of traffic. However, these motorists should slow down and watch for students loading or unloading from the bus.

About the Survey

The AAA Consumer Pulse™ Survey was conducted online among residents living in Tennessee from August 1- 7, 2023. A total of 400 residents completed the survey. Survey results have a maximum margin of error of ± 4.9% points. Responses are weighted by age and gender to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the adult population (18+) in Tennessee.

About AAA - The Auto Club Group

The Auto Club Group (ACG) is the second largest AAA club in North America with more than 13 million members across 14 U.S. states, the province of Quebec and two U.S. territories. ACG and its affiliates provide members with roadside assistance, insurance products, banking and financial services, travel offerings and more. ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with more than 62 million members in the United States and Canada. AAA's mission is to protect and advance freedom of mobility and improve traffic safety. For more information, get the AAA Mobile app, visit AAA.com, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.