AAA urges motorists to drive carefully as school begins

AAA urges motorists to drive carefully as school begins The end of summer marks the beginning of the 2002-2003 school year and AAA South Dakota urges motorists to keep their eyes open and their minds alert in its "School's Open � Drive Carefully" campaign.

"The motorists should take extra precaution when driving in areas with school age children," said Cheri Cihak, AAA South Dakota. "Some of these kids have very little experience in dealing with traffic situations."

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children 14 years of age or under with 2,343 deaths in 2000. One-fourth of all children who die in these crashes are pedestrians. Overall, one pedestrian is killed every two hours in the U.S.

"Everyone needs to take extra precaution during this hectic time of the year," said Cihak. "Often, parents can become distracted by excited children and trying to get to work on time. This may cause some drivers not to be focused on basic traffic safety practices."

AAA's annual School's Open � Drive Carefully campaign reminds motorists to use extra caution on the roadways. Everyone should recognize that school children travel the roadways on a regular schedule. "Adjusting your schedule by just five or ten minutes can help you avoid busy pedestrian zones and frequent bus stops," said Cihak.

During the campaign, AAA is noting that drivers should recognize that it is more difficult for a child to judge traffic situations because their peripheral vision is one-third narrower than an adult's. "When driving in school zones, near playgrounds, or in neighborhoods where children play, be prepared for a child to dart out into the roadway," said Cihak. "That way, you'll never be taken by surprise and will be able to stop in time."

To help protect children, AAA urges motorists to follow these safety tips:

* Slow down in or near school and residential areas.

* Drive with your headlights on even during the day � so children and other drivers can see you.

* Look for clues such as school safety patrollers, bicycles, and playgrounds that indicate children could be in the area.

* Scan between parked cars and other objects for signs that children could dart into the road.

* Practice extra caution in bad weather.

* Always stop for school buses that are loading or unloading students.

"Remember, back to school means back to basic driver safety," said Cihak. "School's open � drive carefully."

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