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School's Open - Drive Carefully

To help motorists, bicyclists and young pedestrians stay safe as Hawaii schoolchildren return to classrooms, AAA Hawaii is distributing back-to-school safety posters, traffic safety coloring and activity books, new pedestrian safety bookmarks and yellow school-bus shaped bumper stickers to schools and libraries, community groups and law enforcement as part of AAA’s 79th  annual “School’s Open—Drive Carefully campaign.

The campaign’s goal is to help boost traffic safety awareness in and around schools due to increased traffic congestion.

New items for schools to distribute to families include colorful pedestrian School’s Open Walk Safely bookmarks, a safety DVD and teacher curriculum and School’s Open Parent Handout.

AAAs popular “Pick Up and Drop Off Children at School” tip card and Halloween safety bookmark are also available this fall as part of traffic safety materials to be distributed across the state.

Nationally, traffic collisions are the number one cause of death and injury for youngsters less than 15 years of age. Today, more students are driven by parents to school and they are mixing with more commuters who use bicycles and motorcycles to save gas. This has created a dangerous environment for all road users, according to AAA Hawaii

“Increased hazards for children walking to and from school or waiting at bus stops is due to more traffic congestion near campuses,” said AAA’s Community Programs & and Traffic Safety Manager Anita Lorz Villagrana.  “Drivers must watch for children walking or riding a bike and reduce their speeds in school zones.”

Traffic safety rules have changed significantly since today’s parents were children, said Lorz Villagrana. Mandatory seat belt laws, air bags, bike helmet requirements, texting and cell phone ban awareness as well as new, safer ways for crossing streets should be discussed with children, she added. Tell children to remove headphones and put away cell phones and other electronic devices so they can hear and see traffic when crossing the street, Lorz Villagrana said.

One-fifth of children under age 14 who die in motor vehicle crashes are pedestrians, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The fatalities are more likely to happen mid-afternoon, when school is letting out.

Educators can also request an Auto Club Traffic Safety Materials Catalog which features available educational materials, community programs and safety initiatives.

To help protect children, the Auto Club urges motorists to follow these safety tips:

  • Drive without distractions. Don’t use mobile devices, including cell phones, eat, apply make up, or shave.
  • Drive slowly in and around school and residential areas. Pay extra attention near schools duringthe morning and afternoon hours.
  • Obey school zone speed limit signs and come to a complete stop at all intersections.
  • Always stop for school buses that are loading, or unloading students.
  • Drive with headlights on so children and other drivers can see you.
  • Scan between parked cars as children could dart into the street near school zones, playgrounds, bus stops and in neighborhoods.

Pedestrians should remember the following safety tips:

  • Children under age 10 should not cross the street alone.
  • Cross only at corners so drivers can see you.
  • Always use a crosswalk when available. But remember that painted lines can’t stop cars.
  • Remove headphones and put away cell phones and other electronic devices when crossing the street.
  • Cross only on the new green light, so you have time to cross safely.
  • Use the intersection walk/don’t walk push-button. Cross with the “walk” sign only.
  • Look all ways before crossing, watching for cars that are turning.
  • Never cross the street from between cars. Drivers can’t see you.
  • If there’s no sidewalk, walk on left side of road, facing traffic, to see oncoming cars.
  • Use a flashlight or wear something retro-reflective at night to help drivers see you.

Bicycle riders under age 18 must wear a helmet under state law and practice the following:

  • Keep your bicycle in good mechanical condition.
  • Use the safest route to your destination. Obey all traffic rules and signs.
  • Walk your bike across busy intersections; don’t carry passengers.
  • Be sure the road is clear before entering.
  • Always ride single file and watch for opening car doors.
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AAA Hawai'i is a member club affiliated with the American Automobile Association (AAA) national federation and serves members in the state of Hawai'i.