Whether met with tears of joy or sorrow for kids all over the country, it is back to school time again. Summer vacation is ending in many districts, and Bellingham kids have already returned to classrooms. This also means it’s time for school buses and kids walking or biking to school in the morning and back home in the afternoon.

According to AAA, the afternoon hours are particularly dangerous for kids being hit by cars. Nearly a quarter of child pedestrian fatalities occurred between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Children don’t have enough experience to know what to do in unexpected situations that can happen so fast, and sometimes they do unexpected things. No driver wants to be responsible for a devastating accident at any time – especially one that involves children.

Drivers need to be especially careful when driving around kids, and here are some things from AAA’s School’s Open – Drive Carefully campaign to think about.

  • Slow down. School zones require drivers to go slower, yet not all school zone signs have flashing lights. If you know you are traveling near a school, pay extra attention, and slow down. AAA states that, “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.” Especially if you are driving through any urban area with stoplights along your route, there is no way that speeding will be worth the added risk.
  • Come to a complete stop. Studies show one-third of drivers come to a “California stop” as they are so called – rolling through the stop sign. Completely stopping allows drivers the time to make the necessary left-right-left look before proceeding. Many things happen at intersections, including other vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists. That’s too many things to assess while in motion.
  • Eliminate distractions. Not just the obvious ones about never, ever using a cell phone to text or take selfies or check the latest scores as you drive. All it takes to double your risk of crashing is taking your eyes off the road for two seconds. You simply cannot react to things happening around you, and  you may be the one responsible for a crash when others are following the traffic rules. Children move quickly and can be unpredictable. Maintain your awareness and focus on your task
  • Reverse responsibly. Every vehicle has blind spots. Even though increasingly newer vehicles come equipped with a standard rearview camera (and will eventually be required to have them on all new models) every vehicle has blind spots. Check for those short people. Make sure your kids know to avoid playing in, under, or around cars.
  • Watch for bicycles. Children lack experience, and can be unsteady or unpredictable while riding. Maintain the “3 Feet Rule” when passing bicyclists of any age. Sometimes riders have to dodge an object on the road, or a door opening, or simply make a mistake and fall. Still, bicycles are great ways to get around town, and encourage your children to ride, but do it safely. Always wear a helmet, even though it is not legally mandated.
  • Talk to your teen. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, according to the CDC. Here are evidence-based guidance and tips for teen drivers

Be safe out there, and enjoy the turn of the season!

Bill Coats Law is in downtown Bellingham. If you ever have been in an accident or a loved one has, please reach out. All cases start with a free consultation, which you can begin here

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