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Burlington Township Police Department
Monday April 30th, 2018 :: 01:31 p.m. EDT


Driving Safely In School Zones - What You Need to Know to Keep Kids Safe

The Burlington Twp Police Department would like to take a moment to remind residents and travelers that spring is finally coming to New Jersey. As such, more students are walking to school. Please take heed to the following public announcement, the child you save could one you know or your own.

Driving Safely In School Zones - What You Need to Know to Keep Kids Safe

Follow the Rules To Save a Life -
Crosswalks, flashing lights, stop signs and crossing guards can only do so much when it comes to protecting school children. When it comes to school zone safety, motorists need to study up on these safe-driving tips from experts in school zone safety:

* Expect the unexpected: "Children run and play. They can come from anywhere," says James Solomon of the National Safety Council.

* Stop properly at stop signs and crosswalks: It's illegal to pass through either a stationary stop signor one held by a crossing guard or other safety representative.

In all 50 states, when a stop sign is displayed, motorists must stop for it, Solomon says. Drivers should stop completely at the stop sign, before the crosswalk area. Blocking a crosswalk could force kids to go around your vehicle, putting them in danger. And wait a bit before driving through after the crossing guard clears the intersection, warns Solomon. "There are always one or two children lagging behind that are now going to run through the crosswalk to catch up with the rest of the group."

* Obey the speed limit: "The faster you are going, the more likely you are to injure a pedestrian and to injure them more seriously," says Nancy Pullen-Seufert of the National Center for Safe Routes to School.

Most school zones have speed limits of 20 mph or less. Studies have found that 5 percent of pedestrians hit by a vehicle at 20 mph suffer a fatality. The fatality number increases to 45 percent when hit by a vehicle going 30 mph, and to 80 percent for a pedestrian hit by a vehicle traveling at 40 mph. And because of their smaller size, children fare even worse. Faster driving means longer stopping distances. At 20 mph, it takes an average vehicle 69 feet to come to a total stop, and nearly double that distance, to 123 feet, at just 30 mph, according to NHTSA.

* Put away electronic devices: A few states, including Illinois, have made it illegal to use a cell phone while driving in a school zone, and for good reason.

Talking on your cell phone has been shown to reduce reaction time. Looking away for just 2 seconds doubles your chance of crashing. Texting while driving has been shown to be as dangerous as driving drunk.

"The ability to multitask is a myth. If you are going to drive your child to school, drive your child to school. Leave the cell phone in a place where you aren't going to be distracted," says Kate Carr of Safe Kids Worldwide.

Solomon agrees. "You want to navigate the school zone 100 percent prepared to handle a situation," he says.

* Make eye contact with pedestrians: "If you haven't made eye contact with them, assume that they haven't seen you and that they are just going to keep on going," says Carr.

* Wait your turn near school buses: It's illegal in all 50 states to pass a bus on undivided roadways if the vehicle is stopped to load and unload children. State laws vary regarding passing a school bus on a divided roadway when the bus is traveling in the opposite direction, but all vehicles behind a bus must stop. Make sure you know the rules in your state, and regardless of whatever they are, never pass a school bus on the right. It's a sure recipe for disaster.

According to the National Safety Council, most children who die in bus-related crashes are pedestrians ages 4-7 who are hit by the bus or by motorists illegally passing the school bus.

* Pay attention to bus warning lights: A yellow flashing light means the bus is preparing to stop to let kids on or off. A red light means kids are getting on or off the bus.

* Give buses ample space to load and unload: Children are in the most danger of being hit by a vehicle within the 10 feet around a school bus. And just in case you're tempted to violate any of the bus-related rules, many school buses are now equipped with rear cameras to catch motorists who illegally pass them.

* Follow the school's drop-off rules: "Oftentimes parents get very tempted to drop their child off across the street from the school and tell their child to just run across the street. And we really, really don't want drivers to do that," says Pullen-Seufert. "Any time any pedestrian of any age is crossing the road, they are at a greater risk."

* Choose a different route: If you are a daily commuter and not a parent picking up or dropping off their child, avoid a school zone if you can.
* Be more careful in the fall: More children are injured by cars in September than any other month. "Kids are going back to school and drivers have to adjust again after a summer season," says Carr.

* What to do if there's a near miss: Never reprimand or approach the child directly. The child is likely to be nervous or frightened when confronted by a stranger, Solomon says. Do let an adult know what happened, though. You might be alerting authorities to a potentially dangerous area within the school zone.

You need to find whoever is in charge, if it's a crossing guard, a law enforcement agent or school staff," Solomon says. "You need to safely park the vehicle and explain what happened. Sooner or later, enough near-misses mean someone gets hit."

* Treat every kid as your own: It's not always some unwary motorist who is responsible for school zone traffic accidents. Whether they're dropping off or picking up their children, parents also often break school zone road rules, say safety experts.

If you're a parent, keep in mind that even if your children are safely in school or in your vehicle, you still have to watch out for their classmates. You'd want other parents to do the same for your kids.

For more on what you can do to keep school children safe, including child pedestrians and bicyclists, check out the National Safety Council's "Back to School Safety Tips for Motorists.

Burlington Township Police Department
851 Old York Rd
Burlington, NJ 08016

Emergency: 9-1-1
Non-emergencies: 609-386-2019

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