With the start of the 2012-13 academic year just days away for public school systems in the local area and statewide, the risk heightens for tragic motor vehicle accidents involving students.
In order to prevent such tragedies, the North Carolina Highway Patrol will be focusing on education and enforcement. Troopers across the state will be educating teenage drivers by implementing teenage driver safety plans and will be working with school administrators in offering any assistance in the area of highway safety.
Education, however, is just one part of the solution. Increased enforcement visibility in and around all school zones will be observed.
On Monday, Aug. 27, schools operating on traditional calendars will begin with more than one million students attending North Carolina’s public schools. Students will be traveling to and from school and school related activities during the morning and evening rush hours, which happen to be the busiest times for a teenager to be driving on North Carolina’s 78,000 miles of roadways.
Research has shown that teenage drivers lack the experience of seasoned drivers and are more likely to be distracted while operating a motor vehicle. According to the National Highway and Transportation Traffic Safety Administration and the UNC Highway Research Center revealed some staggering facts:
Approximately two-thirds of the people killed in fatal young-driver crashes are the young drivers themselves or their passengers;
Fifty-seven percent of fatalities involving young drivers occur on rural roadways;
One out of four 16-year-old drivers in North Carolina is involved in a car crash every year and nearly half of these crashes are serious enough to result in injury or death according to the UNC Highway Safety Research Center;
16-year-olds are three times more likely to die in a car crash than other drivers;
Sixty-one percent of all young driver fatalities were NOT wearing their seatbelts; and
Fifty-four percent of the vehicle’s occupants were killed as a result of NOT being restrained.
Studies have shown that the combination of inexperience and the natural impulsiveness of the adolescent years contribute to this increased risk in being involved in a fatal crash. Given this information, it is not surprising that traffic collisions continue to be the leading cause of teenage deaths in North Carolina.
In addition, the new school year brings an increase of school buses on North Carolina highways. Motorists should be cognizant of their presence. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration an average of 24 school-age children nationwide die in school transportation-related traffic crashes each year (11 occupants of school transportation vehicles and 13 pedestrians).
To prevent these deaths, drivers, children and parents are advised to follow a few simple safety tips:
When backing out of a driveway or leaving a garage, watch out for children walking or bicycling to school.
When driving in neighborhoods with school zones, watch out for young people who may be thinking about getting to school, but may not be thinking of getting there safely.
Slow down. Watch for children walking in the street, especially if there are no sidewalks in neighborhood.
Slow down. Watch for children playing and congregating near bus stops.
Be alert. Children arriving late for the bus may dart into the street with out looking for traffic.
Learn and obey the school bus laws in your state. Learn the “flashing signal light system” that school bus drivers use to alert motorists of pending actions:
Yellow flashing lights indicate that the bus is preparing to stop to load or unload children. Motorists should slow down and prepare to stop their vehicles.
Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate that the bus has stopped, and that children are getting on or off. Motorists must stop their cars 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.
Get to the bus stop at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive.
When the bus approaches, stand at least three giant steps (6 feet) away from the curb, and line up away from the street.
Wait until the bus stops, the door opens, and the driver says that it’s okay before stepping onto the bus.
If you have to cross the street in front of the bus, walk on the sidewalk or along the side of the road to a point at least five giant steps (10 feet) ahead of the bus before you cross. Be sure that the bus driver can see you, and you can see the bus driver.
Use the handrails to avoid falls. When exiting the bus, be careful that clothing with draw strings, and book bags with straps don’t get caught in the handrails or doors.
Never walk behind the bus.
Walk at least three giant steps away from the side of the bus.
If you drop something near the bus, tell the bus driver. Never try to pick it up because the driver may not be able to see you.
Teach children to follow these common sense practices to make school bus transportation safer.
For more information on North Carolina’s Stop Arm Law, please go to the following link: http://www.ncbussafety.org/SchoolBusSafety/SBSWlaw.html.