AAA warns motorists to be aware of influx of pedestrians in back to school season

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Students are going back to school throughout the Bay Area this month, and the American Automobile Association would like to remind drivers that school zones and neighborhoods which may have been quiet for the summer will soon be flooded with pedestrians, many of whom are children.

The latest study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety released today indicates that over the last decade, nearly one-third of child pedestrian deaths occur after school between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.

“More than 330 child pedestrians died in 2013 and 13,000 were injured,” AAA Northern California spokeswoman Cynthia Harris said. “We must remind motorists to slow down and stay alert as kids head back into school.”

Some schools have already started as early as Aug. 12, such as in San Jose and San Mateo, and other schools such as Fremont and Hayward still have about a week left of summer.

AAA stresses the need for motorists to slow down in school zones. According to the study, a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 25 miles per hour is about two-thirds less likely to be killed than a pedestrian struck at 35 miles per hour.

AAA also suggests that eliminating distractions, especially around these areas, is crucial. A driver taking their eyes off the road doubles their chances of crashing, according to AAA.

AAA also warns parents to teach children awareness and to never to play in, under, or around parked vehicles.

“Many cars now have cameras but it’s important to have a look in all blind spots before reversing,” Harris said.

Teenage drivers are not exempt from after-school accidents, according to the AAA study. More than one in four fatal crashes involving teen drivers occur after school between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Biking is another popular way children are commuting to and from school.

“Give [student bikers] plenty of space, as they’re still young and tend to be a bit unsteady and unpredictable on bicycles,” Harris said.

Parents should also make sure that if their child bikes to school that they wear a properly fitted helmet on every ride. Harris also suggests that for adults who are dropping off or picking up students to avoid being late or rushing.

“This is a serious issue,” Harris said. “Especially at the beginning of school when there is lots of excitement to see friends and kids aren’t quite sure where to go or park their bikes, make sure you slow down and stay alert.”

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