School zones are high-traffic areas. Buses are loading and unloading, parents are picking up and dropping off, students are flooding the sidewalks and crosswalks. The chaos and confusion create a recipe for accidents - and children are frequently the victims. In 2015 alone, nearly 300 teens were hit and killed by cars while walking, according to Safe Kids Worldwide.
Texas is among the top ten worst states for traffic accidents in school zones. What's more, three of the five most dangerous school zones nationwide are in our state.
So how can we help keep school zones safe?
1. Teach your children about the dangers
Most children are taught from a young age to look both ways before they cross the street. However, that's not enough. Teenagers in particular continue to get struck by cars at alarming rates. Distraction is a major contributing factor.
Instill in your kids the importance of paying attention whenever they're around traffic, and especially when coming or going to school. Make sure they put away their cellphones (and headphones) while walking. Teach them to cross the street only at crosswalks, and to make eye contact with drivers before doing so.
2. Model safe driving in school zones
As a driver, you have an important responsibility toward not only your own kids, but others around you as well. Always use caution in school zones. This means putting down distractions like cellphones and beverages. Make use of dedicated drop-off and pick-up zones so your kids don't have to walk across the street (especially if there are multiple lanes of traffic). Don't double park or block crosswalks. Finally, slow down, and always observe posted speed limits. Accident and fatality rates spike significantly with increased speeds.
3. Lobby your children's school to implement better safety measures
Schools themselves play a big role in reducing the risk of accidents through measures such as:
- Clearly marked pick-up and drop-off zones that don't require kids to cross through traffic
- Crosswalks with flashing lights
- Appropriate speed limits that are prominently posted and enforced
- Dedicated bike lanes
- Crossing guards
Schools should also make a point to educate students about traffic safety - for example, through a "heads up, phones down" campaign.
As a parent, you're in a position to notice safety lapses in school zones and bring them to the school's attention. You can go a long way toward protecting your kids (and others) by speaking up on their behalf.