Back to school: 10 Ways to keep students, pedestrians and motorists safe

Drivers are reminded to be alert for school buses as kids head back to class. - Courtesy photo
Drivers are reminded to be alert for school buses as kids head back to class.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

For the Reporter

As the new school year begins, AAA Washington urges drivers to be aware and extra cautious when traveling in school zones, backing out of driveways and navigating through parking lots and neighborhoods.

More than 1.1 million students in Washington state are preparing for back to school, which welcomes an increase in child pedestrian activity in and around roadways, especially during morning and afternoon hours.

According to the NHTSA, nearly 500 school-age children (ages 5-18) are killed each year during school travel while occupants of passenger vehicles, in addition to the 75 school-age pedestrians that are killed each year while traveling to and from school.*

Top 10 Back-to-School Safety Tips from AAA:

1. Slow down. Obey Washington's 20 mph speed limit in school zones. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a pedestrian is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed when struck by a vehicle traveling at 20 mph compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling 30 mph.

2. Keep your eyes on the road. Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles the chance of being involved in a crash.

3. Come to a complete stop. More than one-third of drivers roll through stop signs in school zones or neighborhoods. Always come to a complete stop before proceeding.

4. Reverse responsibly. Check for children on the sidewalk, in driveways and around your vehicle before slowly backing up.

5. Respect crossing zones. More than 22,000 students in Washington state volunteer as AAA School Safety Patrollers to protect their fellow classmates during school travel. Be mindful near crossing zones and make eye contact with patrollers to ensure maximum safety.

6. Watch for bicycles. Slow down and allow at least three feet of passing distance between your vehicle and a bicyclist. Expert advice, videos and safety tips at

7. Eliminate distractions. Eliminate dangerous distractions that can increase your risk of being involved in a crash. For example, store cell phones out of reach to limit texting, calling or emailing while driving.

8. Talk to your teen. According to the NHTSA, 74 percent of fatalities during school travel hours are crashes involving teen drivers.

9. Plan for extra time. Drive slowly and choose alternate routes to avoid school zones if possible, or plan ahead and allow for extra travel time if needed.

10. Practice: Knowledge and practice of safe walking and biking around traffic is essential. Choose safe walking and bicycling routes and demonstrate the rules of the road with your children before school starts.

School zone safety tips can be found on AAA's "School's Open - Drive Carefully" page at

"Parents have a great influence on their child's safe walking, biking and driving behaviors," said Jennifer Cook, AAA Washington. "As families prepare for the upcoming school year, we encourage parents to talk about the importance of school zone safety with their children and teen drivers."

*Fatality Analysis Reporting System's specific criteria used to define school travel include: 1. Month of year: Sept. 1-June 15; 2. Days of week: Monday-Friday; 3. Hours of day: 6 a.m.-8:59 a.m. and 2 p.m.-4:59 p.m.

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