NASHVILLE, Tenn., (August 10, 2020) — AAA is warning drivers to be cautious as schools begin to open across the state. Normally drivers would expect to see increased foot traffic in school zones, sidewalks and crosswalks, but this year will be completely different, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With a mix of in-school and remote learning, motorists could find increased pedestrian traffic in neighborhoods as many students transition to remote and virtual learning options.
“Back to school season looks a little different this year, but it’s still important for motorists to be vigilant and keep safety top of mind, “ said Megan Cooper, spokesperson, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Traditional school zone activity could move closer to home for many and we are urging drivers to remain alert and expect increased foot and bicycle traffic at all times throughout the day.”
Tips for Drivers
- Slow down and be vigilant in school zones. 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 just 10 mph faster. Some school districts may be staggering bus schedules to keep students safely socially distanced. This means that school zones may be active for longer or active at unexpected times. If a school zone or bus stop is on your commute be extra cautious at all times.
- Expect children in neighborhoods throughout the day. With more students learning from home, whether through homeschooling or virtual learning, children may be playing outside or taking a recess break throughout the day. Treat neighborhoods as school zones by reducing your speed and watching for children near the road.
- Come to a complete stop. Research shows that more than one-third of drivers roll through stop signs in school zones or neighborhoods. Always come to a complete stop, checking carefully for children on sidewalks and in crosswalks before proceeding.
- Eliminate distractions. Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing. And children can be quick, crossing the road unexpectedly or emerging suddenly between parked cars.
- Watch for bicycles. Children on bicycles are often inexperienced, unsteady and unpredictable. Slow down and allow at least three feet of passing distance between your vehicle and a bicyclist. If your child rides a bicycle to school or around the neighborhood, require that they wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet on every ride. Find videos, expert advice and safety tips at ShareTheRoad.AAA.com.
Teen Drivers Face Unique Challenges
Teens are returning to school during the 100 Deadliest Days for teen drivers, the time period between Memorial Day and Labor Day where fatal crash rates for teen drivers rise. With virtual and alternative class schedules being offered across the state, teens may be spending more time on the roads unsupervised than they would in a typical school year.
Parents are the best line of defense to keep their teens safe behind the wheel. AAA recommends that now is good time for parents to revisit safe driving conversations with their teens. A parent-teen driving agreement is a great way to open the lines of communication with your teen driver and helps to set clear driving related expectations and restrictions in the household.
AAA offers a variety of resources for parents of teen drivers:
- Tennessee’s Graduated Driver Licensing laws overview. Tennessee uses a multi-stage licensing process for teens. This system allows teens to gradually gain exposure to complex driving situations, easing them into driving over an extended period of time.
- AAA Parent Coaching Guide 2020 offers behind-the-wheel lesson plans, including a variety of “Do’s and Don’ts” to make the learning experience.
- TeenDriving.AAA.com – an online resource with a variety of tools to help prepare parents and teens for the learning-to-drive process.
- The online AAA StartSmart Parent Session offers excellent resources for parents on how to become effective in-car coaches as well as advice on how to manage their teen’s overall driving privileges.
- AAADrive™ is a free feature within the AAA Mobile app that can help new teen drivers demonstrate their safe driving to their parents. Available to AAA members and insureds, the companion app allows parents and teens to agree and set limits such as when they can drive, where they can drive and how fast they can drive. Download it by texting MOBILEAPP to 99513.