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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

State AAA Chapter Calls for Caution and Updated Laws to Protect Students at Bus Stops


MADISON  – As students across Wisconsin get ready to start the 2016-2017 school year, The American Automobile Association (AAA) reminds motorists to be aware of increased child pedestrian activity and traffic congestion in and around neighborhoods and school zones.  

Motorists should be especially vigilant for pedestrians during before-and after-school hours.  The afternoon hours are particularly dangerous for walking children – over the last decade, nearly one-third of child pedestrian fatalities occurred between 3 and 7 p.m.

"AAA’s School’s Open – Drive Carefully awareness campaign is designed to curb a trend of unsafe driving behavior in school zones," said Nick Jarmusz, Wisconsin Director of Public Affairs for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “We must remind motorists to slow down and stay alert as kids head back to school.”

AAA Wisconsin is also calling upon the state legislature to better protect students by updating the state’s law concerning school bus stops.  The current law, which has been in place since 1955, prohibits buses from using overhead warning lights to stop traffic when stopping on a street with sidewalks and curbs on both sides.  But a 2009 report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration advises that “children under the age of 10 should not be unsupervised when in or near roads largely because their ability to control impulses and base decisions on long-term consequences is still immature.”  And according to a recent study of Wisconsin crash data completed by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee over 1,300 school-aged children were struck by vehicles between 2011 and 2013. 

“Wisconsin’s current school bus stop law places thousands of children in a situation that we know is dangerous on a daily basis,” said Jarmusz.  “AAA hopes that the legislature will update the law so that all students benefit from the proven protection of overhead warning lights.”

The current law does allow municipalities to adopt local ordinances requiring the use of flashers on streets exempted by the state statute, but only for stops at which a student is expected to cross and no traffic signals are present.  AAA believes that this creates unnecessary complexity for the driver and confusion for motorists, both of which can endanger students. 

AAA offers these tips for motorists help keep children safe this school year:

Follow the speed limit.  School zone speed limits are purposefully set low.  Children are unpredictable and may have difficulty gauging the distance and speed of an approaching car.
Buckle Up!  Parents who drive their children to/from school are reminded to use the proper child safety seat, booster seat or seat belt, based on the child's age and size.  Children should ride in the backseat until they are at least 13 years old.  Adults and teens should always buckle up, setting a good example for others in the vehicle.
Look for AAA School Safety Patrollers.  With over 654,000 AAA School Safety Patrollers in 34,500 schools across the country, they’re a sure sign you’re approaching a school zone.
Come to a complete stop at intersections with stop signs.  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 driver distraction. AAA research shows that taking your eyes off the road for two seconds doubles your chances of crashing.  Putting down your phone makes you a safer driver and sets a good example for young passengers and pedestrians.
Talk to your teen.  Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the U.S. and more than one-quarter of fatal crashes involving teen drivers occur during the after-school hours of 3 to 7 p.m.  Get evidence-based guidance and tips at www.TeenDriving.AAA.com
Watch for bicyclists.  Children on bikes are often inexperienced, unsteady and unpredictable.  Slow down and allow at least three feet of passing distance between your vehicle and the bicycle.  If your child rides a bicycle to school, require that they wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet on every ride.
Plan ahead. Leave early for your destination and build in extra time for congestion.  Modify your route to avoid school zones and traffic.  

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