Students throught Kansas recently went back to school. That means a sharp rise in child pedestrians and bicyclists, increased traffic in school zones, and school buses that make frequent stops. Many drivers, however, are still adjusting to the change.
The greatest risk children face at the beginning of the school year is in school zones and at bus stops. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 264 fatalities across the United States related to school transportation. Approximately 203 of those deaths involved children walking, waiting at a bus stop, riding a bicycle or riding in a car.
What can be done to reduce crash risks in school zones?
Last month, the Wichita Police Department teamed up with the American Automobile Association (AAA) to raise awareness of school zone safety, according to KWCH12. This effort involved placing signs around Wichita elementary schools warning drivers to slow down. The signs read "School's open. Drive carefully." According to AAA, this effort is conducted each year in conjunction with Wichita Public Schools.
"We actually do this every year around back-to-school time to make drivers aware that kids are going to be back on the roads," says Shawn Steward with AAA Kansas. "Be extra careful. Be extra vigilant of those kids."
Wichita Police Sgt. Steve Yarberry also warns drivers to be cautious in areas where kids are walking, especially around crosswalks.
"You've got kids all over the place around schools," Yarberry says. "They're running out in front of traffic."
Many of the crosswalks in Wichita school zones are equipped with flashing lights to alert drivers to slow down or stop. Unfortunately, according to Yarberry, some drivers choose to disregard these flashing lights.
"You'll see the lights start flashing and people speed up to try to beat it because they don't want to sit there for the red," Yarberry said.
In addition, Yarberry warns that it's common for drivers to pass school buses, even when the stop arm is extended and the red lights are flashing.
Shockingly, FOX4KC.com reports that more than 1,000 Kansas drivers have ignored school bus stop arms during a one-day test conducted in April 2019. Since the test only involved three-quarters of Kansas school districts, that number is likely much greater. State law requires that drivers stop in both directions when a school bus has its stop arm extended.
What can you do to stay safe?
Crashes in school zones are preventable when drivers, students, and parents become aware of the potential risks. The NHTSA offers some tips on how crashes can be prevented:
- Ensure that a child arrives at a school bus five minutes early, remains five steps away from the curb, and only boards the bus when it is safe to do so.
- Ensure that children under the age of 10 are accompanied by an adult or guardian.
- Encourage walkers to always use sidewalks and crosswalks when available.
- If no sidewalks are available, walkers should stay on the edge of the road facing traffic.
- Walkers should avoid distractions and look both ways if no crosswalk is available.
- Bicyclists should always wear properly fitted helmets, avoid distractions (such as electronic devices and headphones), and ride in the same direction cars are traveling.
- Teen drivers are expected to keep distracting items out of reach and avoid risky driving behavior.
- All other drivers must reduce their speed, be prepared to stop, and stay attentive.
If you or a loved one was hurt in a school zone crash because of someone else's reckless or careless behavior, speak to an experienced Kansas attorney at Bretz & Young Injury Lawyers and find out what legal options are available to you. You can schedule your free consultation today by contacting us online.