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Drivers, slow down! School’s about to start!

As hundreds of thousands of Oklahoma school students gear up for the 2014-2015 school year, AAA reminds motorists to be aware of speed limits in school zones, slow down and watch out for children.

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling 25 miles per hour is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed as compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling just 10 mph faster.

“Motorists really need to be on their toes during the morning and afternoon hours when school children are walking and bicycling to and from school,” said Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA. “You never know what a young child will do. They’re unpredictable and spontaneous. Expect the unexpected.”

Nearly one-fifth of traffic fatalities of children below the age of 15 are pedestrians, with more school-age pedestrians killed between the hours of 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. than any other time of day.

As part of AAA’s annual School’s Open—Drive Carefully campaign, AAA offers 10 key tips for motorists to help keep kids safer as they return to school.

1. Slow Down. Two-thirds of motorists exceeded the posted speed limit during the 30-minute period before and after school, according to a national observational survey. Whether in a school zone or residential neighborhood, keep speeds low and be prepared to stop quickly for increased vehicle or pedestrian traffic.

2. Obey Traffic Signs. This same observational survey found that many motorists violated stop signs in school zones and residential neighborhoods. Forty-five percent did not come to a complete stop with 37 percent rolling through and seven percent not even slowing down.

3. Stay Alert. Always avoid distractions while driving, particularly in school zones and residential neighborhoods. Looking away from the roadway for just two seconds doubles the chance of being involved in a crash. Avoid talking on mobile phones, adjusting the radio or any other activities that might take attention away from the roadway. Never text while driving.

4. Scan Between Parked Cars. Nearly 40 percent of child pedestrian fatalities occur in between the hours of 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., mostly at non-intersection locations. Children can quickly dart out between parked cars or other objects along the roadway. Pay close attention not only at intersections, but along any residential roadways where children could be present.

5. Look for Clues of Children Nearby. Keep an eye out for clues that children are likely nearby such as AAA School Safety Patrol members, adult crossing guards, bicycles and playgrounds.

6. Always Stop for School Buses. For many kids, the school day begins and ends with a trip on a school bus. The greatest risk they face is not riding the bus, but approaching and leaving it. 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. Drivers are required to stop and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop sign is withdrawn and the bus begins moving before driving again.

7. Allot Extra Travel Time. Back to school often means increased congestion and longer commute times. Allow extra travel time when school is in session to avoid any temptation to speed or disobey traffic laws in an effort to “catch up” after being delayed.

8. Review Your Travel Route. Consider modifying travel routes to avoid school zones and residential neighborhoods. A slightly longer route might actually be quicker by avoiding congestion and much lower speed limits in and around school zones.

9. Use Extra Caution in Bad Weather. Whether in rain, snow, fog or any other inclement weather, use extra caution. Reduced visibility can make it difficult to see children and for children to see vehicles. It also can make it difficult for drivers to perform quick stops, if needed.

10. Use Headlights. Turn on headlights so children and other drivers can see you and you can see them more easily. But don’t forget to turn them off when you reach your destination.

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