Don’t let walking into a school zone be the most dangerous part of your child’s school day! Colorado Springs and surrounding school districts are starting soon, so pedestrian safety needs to be high on your family’s back-to-school curriculum.
Even in reduced speed zones, there are multiple causes for the car accidents that endanger child pedestrians. Firstly, vehicle drivers can be at fault.
Safe Kids USA says that one out of six vehicles moving through a school zone is being driven by a distracted driver. The organization’s 2009 study, called Characteristics of Distracted Drivers in School Zones: A National Report observed more than 40,000 drivers making their way through school zones. The distraction they observed most often was use of an electronics device. But observers also watched drivers attempting such common car accident-causing activities as eating, drinking, smoking, grooming, reading, or reaching for something. Those drivers are supposed to be watching out for your kids!
“With recent research demonstrating that the driving skills of a distracted driver are as bad as or worse than an intoxicated driver, the overall relevance of this study is clear,” says Moira Donahue, the director of Walk This Way, Safe Kids USA’s pedestrian safety program. “Almost one in six drivers in a school zone behaves like a drunk driver.”
One would assume the morning commute is the most harried time for drivers. But a five-year study of pedestrian trends shows that drivers in the afternoon are actually 22 percent more likely to be driving distracted. Statistics show 55 percent of car accidents resulting in the death of a child occur between 3 and 7 p.m.
The blame for pedestrian-car accidents can’t be placed only on multi-tasking drivers, though. Youth and inexperience cause car accidents, too.
The five-year study also notes that 16- to 25-year-old drivers are responsible for 26.28 percent of car accidents that result in child pedestrian deaths – the highest of any age group. Furthermore, child pedestrians themselves are particularly susceptible to the overwhelming busyness of vehicle traffic, even within designated school zones. In most cases, children younger than age 10 have not yet developed the skills necessary to judge how far away a car is or how quickly it is approaching. The cognitive, developmental, behavioral, physical and sensory abilities of a child may not clearly process all the important information coming at them along a busy road.
So, talk with the young drivers in your family about making driving their #1 priority when behind the wheel. Remind them that the Colorado Springs Police Department is tough on enforcing school zone safety. Fines are doubled for speeding in school zones and a violation requires a mandatory court appearance.
Stress to everybody that they need to be extra cautious when driving in residential areas where children might be outside playing. Since 2003, the Keep Kids Alive Drive 25 program has been reminding Colorado Springs residents that 25 mph is the speed limit for all residential neighborhoods.
Just as you talk to your teens about driving safely, talk with your little pedestrians about safe practices when walking to the school bus stop. Additionally, you can improve drivers’ ability to notice your child by using retro-reflective materials, light colors and bright colors on your kids’ outerwear and backpacks, especially if they walk during twilight or dusk hours.
Fortunately, both Colorado and Colorado Springs maintain exceptional pedestrian safety records. According to Transportation For America, the state of Colorado as a whole averages 1.10 pedestrian fatalities for every 100,000 people. The U.S. average is 1.53. On the local scale, the Colorado Springs metropolitan area pedestrian risk index is 6.7 (of a possible 100). The national risk is 52.1. Let’s keep up the safe driving habits, Colorado Springs!
Add a few extra minutes to your commute time when your neighborhood kids head back to class. Local school district start dates are as follows:
Aug. 10 – #2 Harrison
Aug 12 – #28 Hanover
Aug 16 – #20 Academy
Aug. 17 – #3 Widefield (All grades except 8th) & #70 Pueblo County
Aug 18 – #11 Colorado Springs & #3 Widefield (8th grade only)
Aug 19 – #12 Cheyenne Mountain (K-6 grades only)
Aug. 23 – #12 Cheyenne Mountain (7-12 grades only) & #60 Pueblo City
Aug. 24 – #RE-11J Alamosa