Driving and Walking Near Schools

by on February 28th, 2011
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I live in a suburb of a major metropolitan city. I see reports on a regular basis about accidents around schools. Most of the time, they involve children and the consequences to the child are grave.

Not all of these accidents are caused by drivers. Some of them are caused by children who aren’t following pedestrian laws. Even if the driver isn’t at fault, these accidents will have a life long impact on the driver. Here are a few things that may help prevent these accidents:

Attention: Drivers need to pay special attention around any school. A child could dart out between cars at any moment. A parent in the car in front of you may suddenly stop in order to pick his or her child up. Just about anything could happen, because kids are unpredictable.

Children need to pay attention as well. There are times and places to cross the street, and these should be obeyed. Children should also be aware that some of the drivers around them are distracted. The markings on the crosswalk won’t protect you from a car even if you have the right of way.

Crosswalks: Drivers, not all crosswalks are marked. That’s stupid to me, but I didn’t make the rule. Even if they are marked, there may not be a light or sign to stop you. That does not mean you can keep going; the pedestrian has the right of way and you have to stop and let them cross.

Children, watch the drivers before stepping into the street. A lot of drivers don’t know they are required to stop, or they just don’t want to do it. Always make sure you use a crosswalk, and preferably one that’s marked. Even better, find a marked crosswalk with a light or sign.

Lights: Drivers, yellow lights do not mean “gas it.” Also, you have to wait for any pedestrians before you can make a turn. If they are coming towards you, the wait is until they get onto the sidewalk. If they are walking away, check your state’s driver’s handbook. Some states allow you to turn once the pedestrian is at least one lane past the one you’re turning into. Others don’t.

Children, don’t assume the drivers making a turn are even aware you are there. Look to make sure they are going to remain stopped. Drivers may ignore the rules about lights.

Speed: This is a big deal. It is posted on the streets around schools that the speed limit is twenty-five when children are present. Some are even lower; fifteen miles per hour. Most drivers do forty. At forty, the impact of a car hitting a child is going to be a heck of a lot worse than it would at twenty-five. Your reaction time changes as well. I watched a fellow student die…our whole high school did…because a car was speeding in the school zone.

Teaching: It’s our job to teach our children how to walk to and from school safely. They need to know the pedestrian traffic laws and the things to watch out for. They need to know that not all drivers are going to pay attention.

There is one last thing our kids need to know. I was taught this in driver’s ed, but it is applicable to any pedestrian. Don’t be dead right. Having the right of way and dying because someone else didn’t acknowledge it hurts everyone.


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