As another school year begins today, AAA has kicked off its annual “School’s Open – Drive Carefully” campaign.
Launched nationwide in 1946, the campaign reminds drivers to engage in safe behavior in school zones and residential neighborhoods in an effort to help reduce the number of school-related pedestrian injuries and fatalities.
“Now nearly seven decades old, the ‘School’s Open – Drive Carefully’ campaign has never been more important, as distracted driving continues to be a significant problem on roadways,” said Tony Spada, President and CEO of AAA Western and Central New York. “We urge all drivers to stay alert in areas where children are present, especially during the morning and afternoon hours while students are coming to and from school.”
Recent AAA research proves that distracted driving is a growing problem, showing how mental distractions exist even when drivers keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road. As mental workload and distractions increase, reaction time slows, brain function is compromised, and drivers scan the road less and miss visual cues. This could result in drivers not seeing items right in front of them, including stop signs and pedestrians.
To help protect children and eliminate distractions, AAA urges motorists to follow these safety tips:
• Put aside your electronic distractions: Don’t use cell phones while driving – handheld or hands-free. Never use text messaging, email functions, video games or the internet with a wireless device, including those built into the vehicle <http://exchange.aaa.com/mental-distraction-%E2%80%93-what-it-means/> , while driving.
• Make adjustments before you start driving: Address vehicle systems like your GPS, seats, mirrors, climate controls and sound systems before hitting the road.
• Slow down: Speed limits in school zones are reduced for a reason. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 25 mph is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling 35 mph.
• Come to a complete stop. Research shows that more than one third of drivers roll through stop signs in school zones or neighborhoods.
• Watch for bicycles: 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.
• Pay full attention: As a general rule, if you cannot devote your full attention to driving because of some other activity, it’s a distraction. Take care of it before or after your trip, not while behind the wheel.