16:05 PM

AAA Urges Drivers to Stay Alert as Students Return to School

CHARLOTTE, NC (August 23, 2023) — North Carolina roads will get more crowded - and hazardous - as over 1.5 million students continue to make their return to school. 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.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 64 percent of child pedestrians killed in traffic crashes occurred during the weekday (6 a.m. Monday to 6:00 p.m. Friday) in 2021 (NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts).

“Drivers can save lives by having a heightened sense of awareness from the moment they leave the driveway,” said Tiffany Wright, spokesperson, AAA – The Auto Club Group in the Carolinas. “You’d expect to see more foot traffic near schools, but neighborhoods and city streets will also be bustling with activity. Since children can move quickly and cross the road unexpectedly, it’s important to constantly scan the road for people while driving and be ready to stop at a moment’s notice. You can also reduce the risk of injury or death by slowing down and avoiding distractions like using your cell phone or eating while driving.”

A new AAA survey reveals that many drivers admit to risky behaviors like speeding and using their handheld mobile phone while driving through a school zone.

According to a new survey of North Carolinians:

·       47% 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 on the roadway,” Wright continued.

Top Safety Tips for Drivers

AAA – The Auto Club Group, through its School’s Open Drive Carefully campaign reminds motorists to:

·       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 inexperienced, unsteady 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. Get evidence-based guidance and tips at TeenDriving.AAA.com.

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.

·       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

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.

More than half of respondents in AAA’s latest survey routinely drive past a school bus stop. Sixteen percent admit to driving around a school bus while its red lights are flashing and its stop arms are extended.

Here is an explanation of the laws:

·       Two Lane Street – All 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 Median – All 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 Highway – Traffic 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 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 64 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.