Many look as if they had packed for a week-long hike in the wilderness – bulging backpacks, lunch bags and water bottles, jackets and tennis shoes…
Their footsteps or their bicycle rides lead not to recreation, but to school. Journeys that are presumed to be safe are fraught with hazards when wandering minds and commuting traffic merge.
As Idaho’s children return to school this fall, motorists are urged to use caution, especially when driving along any school route or passing through designated school zones. With the excitement of school, children often are unaware of the dangers posed traffic.
The Idaho Transportation Department joins the Idaho Department of Education, school districts and parent organizations throughout the state in urging motorists to watch for children crossing streets and roads, and reminds drivers to observe traffic laws related to school buses.
“Until about age 10, most kids haven’t developed the skills to safely cope with traffic,” said Greg Fredericksen of ITD’s Office of Traffic and Highway Safety. “They typically act on impulse, they can’t judge car speed very well, and they assume that if they see you in a car, you can see them.”
Children mistakenly believe that cars can stop instantly for them, Fredericksen added.
In Idaho, 76 kids between the ages of 4 and 14 were involved in pedestrian-car crashes during 2004, 18 more than the previous year. Nearly one third (31 percent) of pedestrians killed were in that same age group.
Motorists must stop when approaching a school bus that is stopped to pick up or deliver school children if the bus displays flashing signals.
On a two-lane road, both following and oncoming traffic must stop and remain stopped as long as the red lights are flashing and/or the stop arm on the left side of the bus is extended.
On a highway with two or more lanes of traffic traveling in each direction, oncoming traffic is not required to stop when meeting a school bus. However, motorists still are urged to watch for children crossing traffic lanes while on their way to or from the bus.
Drivers also should use caution when traveling through school zones or near routes used by children and should observe school speed limits and the instructions of crossing guards.
Many Idaho school zones are identified by flashing yellow lights, and usually impose a speed limit of 20 miles per hour. School crossings are identified by warning signs (see accompanying image).
For children who ride school buses
School bus transportation is one of the safest forms of transportation in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Every year, the nation’s 450,000 public school buses travel more than 4.3 billion miles to transport 23.5 million children to and from school and school-related activities. Students are nearly eight times safer riding in a school bus than in cars. The fatality rate for school buses is 0.2 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT), compared to 1.5 per 100 million VMT for cars.
For children who walk or bicycle to school
Parents can help reduce traffic congestion in school zones by parking their vehicles and walking with their child to school. Walking or bicycling to school also reduces unnecessary air pollution.
The National Safety Council also suggests that parents review with their children the correct way to cross a street.
Safety tips to share with your kids
For more safety tips, visit: http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/outreach/KidsPage/bussafety/index.html