School’s back: A reminder to slow down in school zones

Hank Silverberg,

WASHINGTON – It’s back-to-school time for about 2.5 million kids in the D.C. area over the next few weeks and that means extra care for drivers. It also means more clicking for school zone speed cameras.

Prince George’s County in Md. and Fauquier County in Va. will be the first school districts to open doors on Monday.

That is a reminder for drivers to slow down in school zones where many youngsters will be crossing the street. Some of the younger ones may be walking to school for the first time.

In case you need more incentive to slow down there’s this statistic.

Prince George’s county’s police department issued 349,233 tickets from automated cameras in school zones during the 2011-2012 school year, according to AAA. They cost the violator $40 each and netted the county more than $5 million.

John Townsend, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, says Prince George’s county is reducing the number of cameras in school zones this year to 56, down from 120. However, he notes other districts in Maryland are installing them.

“Most of the jurisdictions will be focusing on school zones, as a matter of fact that’s the way the law is written,” he says.

D.C., Montgomery and Loudoun counties will open school on August 27.

City of Alexandria and the Fairfax and Prince William county public schools open Sept. 4. Arlington’s schools open Sept. 6.

AAA has issued six guidelines to keep students safe during the school year.

  • Slow down. Speed limits in school zones are reduced for a reason. 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.
  • Eliminate distractions. Children often cross the road unexpectedly and may emerge suddenly between two parked cars. Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing.
  • Reverse responsibly. Every vehicle has blind spots. Check for children on the sidewalk, driveway and around your vehicle before slowly backing up. Teach your children to never play in, under or around vehicles — even those that are parked.
  • Talk to your teen. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, and more than one in four fatal crashes involving teen drivers occur during the after-school hours of 3 to 7 p.m.
  • Come to a complete stop. Research shows that more than one third of drivers roll through stop signs in school zones or neighborhoods. Always come to a complete stop, checking carefully for children on sidewalks and in crosswalks before proceeding.
  • 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 the bicycle. If your child rides a bicycle to school, require that they wear a properly-fitted bicycle helmet on every ride.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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