Jana Tidwell
Public Relations Manager, PA
O: (302) 299-4426
C: (302) 353-6563
jtidwell@aaamidatlantic.com

Kathleen Zinszer
Sr. Public Aff. Specialist, PA/DE
O: (302) 299-4168
C: (610) 291-7312
KZinszer@aaamidatlantic.com

Reading, Writing and Road Rules:
AAA Mid-Atlantic, Local School Districts, Law Enforcement and Safety Partners Offer Back to School Safety Tips 

School’s Open, Drive Carefully – Safety tips for parents, students and motorists

PHILADELPHIA, PA (August 29, 2019) –– Students across the region are heading back to school this week and next, marking the return of school buses to the roads.  AAA Mid-Atlantic, along with Chichester and Marple Newtown School Districts, local law enforcement, PennDOT, and other safety partners are urging parents, students and motorists to put safety first for road users – motorists, school buses, pedestrians and bicyclists. 

“It’s not just the students who need to get ready for back-to-school,” says Jana Tidwell, manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Drivers need to put their phones down, look up, and pay attention to help local students get to and from school safely.” 

In 2017, PennDOT reported 292 school bus crashes, resulting in 371 injuries and four fatalities.  Of those injured, 35 were school bus drivers and 212 school bus passengers. 

“Drivers have had the roads to themselves since mid-June,” said Jack Keith, Patrolman First Class, Upper Chichester Police Department.  “As the new school year begins, drivers must remember that their commute time may increase and that leaving home a little earlier can help them get where they need to be on time and with less stress.  Too often we see motorists in a hurry and distracted behind the wheel, causing otherwise preventable crashes.”

Motorist Safety Tips

  • Always Stop for School Buses – Flashing yellow lights on a school bus indicate it is preparing to stop to load or unload children and motorists should slow down and prepare to stop. Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate the bus has stopped and children are getting on and off. Motorists are required to stop their vehicles and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop sign is withdrawn and the bus begins moving before they can start driving again.
  • Keep Track of Time – Be aware of the time of day you’re on the road and how that coincides with the school day. More school-age pedestrians are killed from 7 to 8 a.m. and from 3 to 4 p.m. than any other hours of the day.
  • Slow Down – Whether in a school zone or residential neighborhood, drivers should keep their speed low and be prepared to stop quickly for increased vehicle or pedestrian traffic.
  • Come to a complete stop. Always come to a complete stop, checking carefully for children on sidewalks and in crosswalks before proceeding.
  • Watch for bicycles. 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, he or she wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet on every ride.
  • Eliminate distractions. Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing. Children can be quick, crossing the road unexpectedly or emerging suddenly between two parked cars. Reduce risk by not using your cell phone while driving.
  • Obey Traffic Signs – Unfortunately, many motorists violate stop signs in school zones and residential neighborhoods –many failing to come to a complete stop, rolling through a stop sign or not slowing down at all. 

“School bus safety is a top priority in Delaware County, especially here in Chichester School District,” said James Stewart, Chichester School District Director of Transportation.  “However, the responsibility lies with all road users.  Help our school bus drivers by following the rules of the road when it comes to stopping for school buses, removing all distractions while behind the wheel, and waiting safely at school bus stops.”

Pennsylvania's School Bus Stopping Law

  • Motorists must stop at least 10 feet away from school buses that have their red lights flashing and stop arm extended.
  • Motorists must stop when they are behind a bus, meeting the bus or approaching an intersection where a bus is stopped.
  • Motorists following or traveling alongside a school bus must also stop until the red lights have stopped flashing, the stop arm is withdrawn, and all children have reached safety.
  • If physical barriers such as grassy medians, guide rails or concrete median barriers separate oncoming traffic from the bus, motorists in the opposing lanes may proceed without stopping.
  • Do not proceed until all the children have reached a place of safety.

“Motorists continue to drive through the warning signs (lights, stop sign, stop arm) that a school bus is about to come to a stop to pick up or drop off students,” said Mark Dodds, Marple Newtown School District Transportation Supervisor.  “And our bus drivers tell us it’s due to motorists being distracted.  From their vantage point, bus drivers can see motorists with phones in hand not paying attention to the road and putting lives at risk. Is the distraction worth the risk?”

Tips for Parents and Students

  • Teach children the importance of using crosswalks and how to look left-right-left before crossing.
  • Always walk on the sidewalk. If there is not a sidewalk, walk facing traffic.
  • Try to drop children off where they won’t have to cross the street to reach their destinations. Avoid the dangers of jaywalking and encourage kids to always cross in clear view of traffic, never from between parked cars.
  • Just as you wouldn’t text and drive – don’t text and walk. Stay alert to your surroundings.

Distracted Driving Homework

AAA Mid-Atlantic is giving drivers “homework” this school year: Take AAA’s “Don’t Drive Intexticated” pledge to quit distracted driving. Launched in April of this year, AAA’s ‘Don’t Drive Intoxicated – Don’t Drive Intexticated’ campaign is even more important as drivers will once again share the roads with school buses, students and many new, inexperienced teen drivers who will be driving to school for the first time. Motorists can sign the pledge online at aaa.com/dontdrivedistracted.

“AAA’s ‘Don’t Drive Intoxicated—Don’t Drive Intexticated’ campaign targets drivers who would never consider getting behind the wheel after drinking an alcoholic beverage and, yet, will use a mobile device while driving, dangerously taking their eyes and minds off the road,” noted Tidwell.  "We hope more drivers make an effort to minimize their distractions to create safer driving conditions for everyone on the road. Share those first day of school photos before taking getting behind the wheel, not while driving down the road.  Your life and the lives of others are at risk.”

In Pennsylvania

  • According to PennDOT crash statistics, a distracted driver was the contributing cause of more than 15,600 crashes in Pennsylvania in 2017, 6,500 MORE than a drunk driver.
  • Between 2014 and 2018, the State of Pennsylvania saw a 118 percent increase in the number of distracted driving citations issued.

Additional Back to School Safety Resources:

School’s Open, Drive Carefully: https://exchange.aaa.com/safety/child-safety/schools-open-drive-carefully/#.W1CwIiErJQI

Pedestrian Safety: https://exchange.aaa.com/safety/pedestrian-safety/#.W1CxSyErJQI

AAA has loaded its website with lots of useful, free information to help keep children safe: Visit www.AAA.com/Safety.

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AAA provides automotive, travel and insurance services to 57 million members nationwide and more than three million members in Pennsylvania.  AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years.  The not-for-profit, fully tax-paying member organization works on behalf of motorists, who can now map a route, find local gas prices, discover discounts, book a hotel and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app for iPhone, iPad and Android.  For more information, visit www.AAA.com.

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