WASHINGTON, D. C. (Friday, August 17, 2018) –– Their numbers are growing. Approximately 2.4 million students strong, K-12, across the length and breadth of Virginia, Maryland and the Nation’s Capital are heading to school for the first time or heading back to school in the period from the dog days of summer to the day after Labor Day. With schools opening on different dates all across the region, motorists “must mind their Ps & Qs,” especially the before, during, and after school hours, warns AAA Mid-Atlantic. Local motorists should plan ahead, map their routes, slow down and look out for more children and traffic around schools and on neighborhood streets as local schools begin the 2018-2019 school year. Drivers must allow for extra time to cope with the changing commute patterns every new school year brings.
“Area motorists must get back into the habit of slowing down and watching for children in school zones and in neighborhoods who are walking, biking, or taking the bus to school,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “Traffic volume will pick up in the District of Columbia and in northern Virginia this coming week, while Maryland drivers will see more pick up after Labor Day when Maryland schoolchildren head back in to the classroom.”
AAA Mid-Atlantic and the Mid-Atlantic Foundation for Safety and Education are renewing the call to motorists to slow down and stay alert with its annual School’s Open—Drive Carefully campaign. Launched in 1946, AAA’s School’s Open – Drive Carefully awareness campaign was created as a way to help reduce child pedestrian fatalities and injuries.
“A new school year is exciting, but it also means that children will be walking and biking to school, traveling by buses and getting in and out of vehicles, which can all be hazardous situations,” said Leah Scully, Traffic Safety Community Educator for the Mid-Atlantic Foundation for Safety and Education. “Drivers should eliminate distractions and slow down around school zones. Parents should help their children safely navigate their way to school by practicing the route to school whether by walking, biking or explaining how to safely get in or out of a parent’s vehicle at school.”
Students on the traditional calendar for the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) will start classes on Monday, August 20. DCPS enrollment on the traditional and extended year calendars is over 48,000 students. Loudoun County Public Schools’ approximately 80,700 students will return to the classroom next Thursday morning, August 23. Prince William County Public Schools’ 89,861 students will return to school on August 27 and the more than 188,000 students in Fairfax County Public Schools will return on August 28. The districts qualified for waivers to the long-standing “Kings’ Dominion” law, that is, “Virginia’s usual ban on pre-Labor Day holiday starts to the school year.”
The vast majority of Maryland Public School students will not return to class until September 4, the day after Labor Day, with the exception of Allegany County, Garrett County and the SEED School. This is the second year of the later start for Maryland schools, which was declared by an executive order by Maryland Governor Lawrence J. Hogan, Jr. before the 2017 school year.
More than 4,000 District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) students in 13 schools on the extended-year calendar returned to school Monday, August 13 as did the students of Culpeper County Public Schools. Nearly 1,000 students in Rappahannock County and about 11,287 students in Fauquier County returned to the classroom Wednesday, August 15. In Virginia, total enrollment in public schools tops 1.2 million students, according to the Virginia Department of Education. Private schools in the state serve another 145,200 students. During 2017, approximately 900,000 students were enrolled in public schools in Maryland plus 127,765 students in non-public or private schools in the state, reports the Maryland State Department of Education.
Here are some recommendations from AAA regarding ways drivers can help keep kids safe:
· Slow down. Speed limits in school zones are reduced for a reason.
- Come to a complete stop. 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 two parked cars. Reduce risk by not using your cell phone or eating while driving.
- Reverse responsibly. Every vehicle has blind spots. Check for children on the sidewalk, in the driveway and around your vehicle before slowly backing up. Teach your children to never play in, under or around vehicles.
- Watch for bicycles. Children on bikes 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, require that he or she wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet on every ride. Find videos, expert advice and safety tips at ShareTheRoad.AAA.com.
- Talk to your teen. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, and nearly one in four fatal crashes involving teen drivers occur during the after-school hours of 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Pedestrian Safety Tips:
· Cross only at corners so drivers can see you. Never cross between parked cars or mid-block.
· Use a crosswalk when it’s available. Don’t assume that because you can see the driver, the driver can see you. Always use caution when crossing.
· Cross right when the light turns green so you have time to cross safely.
· Use the crosswalk push-button signal when possible, and cross when the signal allows.
· Look all ways before crossing. Look and listen for cars, pedestrians and bicyclists.
· Watch for cars that are turning left or right when you are crossing.
· Walk on a sidewalk when it is provided. If you must walk in the street, walk facing traffic, on the left side of the road and as far to the left as possible.
· Make it easy for drivers to see you – dress in light colors, wear reflective material or use a flashlight.
· Remove headphones and don’t use cell phones or electronic devices when crossing the street.
· Watch for vehicles backing out of driveways or coming out of parking lots.
· Go directly to and from school or the school bus stop. Do not stop along the way.
· Avoid walking alone. Walk with a friend.
· Cooperate with crossing guards, AAA School Safety Patrollers and police officers.
· Be careful in bad weather. Drivers may not see you, and cars may not be able to stop as quickly.
The Mid-Atlantic Foundation for Safety and Education is a non-profit, 501(c) (3), Tax-exempt Corporation dedicated to educating, training and raising the level of traffic and travel safety awareness for all. Through your generous contributions the Foundation works to make schools, communities and roads a safer place for everyone by providing resources & education programs for children, teens, adults and seniors.
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AAA provides automotive, travel and insurance services to 57 million members nationwide and nearly 79,000 members in the District of Columbia. 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 http://aaa.com