From sneakers and jeans to notebook computers and old-fashioned spiral notebooks, the plethora of advertisements makes it clear that it is back to school time. Last week, we discussed school bus safety, but the intersection of students and transportation is too important to confine to a single blog entry. While we all know that travelling in school zones requires special care, with far too many drivers seeming to value a second saved more than student safety.
Our lawyers work with parents whose children were hurt, or even killed, in school zone accidents. Until the day when children are truly safe entering and exiting school and engaging in outdoor play near their classrooms, we will continue to help the victims of these tragic accidents.
In the last weekend before the school doors open for most area children, school zone safety was on the minds of local law enforcement officers and WEAR, our local ABC affiliate. Through the media report, police reminded local drivers to keep an eye out for children as they return to class. In recognition of the safety concerns, school zone speeders could face fines ranging from $70 to $550 depending on just how fast they were travelling.
Milton Police Chief Greg Brand notes that the speed limit in school zones is generally 20 miles per hour in light of the high volume of traffic in and out of schools. The low speed limit also recognizes the added pedestrian traffic in school areas. Speaking of the speed limit, Brand tells drivers: "[P]ay attention to it[,] because we do." He also urges parents to speak with their children about safety, including the use of crosswalks.
In October 2010, CBS's Early Show investigated the issue of school zone safety. The investigation was prompted by the fact that there had been at least two child fatalities due to car accidents in school zones during the short time schools had been open. Unfortunately, as the article notes, these were not isolated incidents. According to the Transportation Research Board, 25,000 children are injured while walking to and from school each year and more than 100 are killed.
To better understand the issue, Early Show reporters stood watch in a Long Island, NY school zone. Despite a clearly marked 20mph speed limit, nearly every driver was speeding, many travelling double or even triple the posted limit. Speed is a critical issue because the higher the speed, the longer it takes to bring a car to a full stop.
The Early Show found that hitting the breaks at 20mph speed led to a 23 foot stopping distance, a 30mph vehicle required 41 feet to stop, and travelling 40 mph correlated with a 68-foot braking distance. The increasing distances mean an increased accident risk, as illustrated by the fact that a 30mph crash is eight times more likely to be fatal to a pedestrian than a 20mph collision. Speeding is even more risky where children are involved.
Speed isn't the only school zone threat. In 2009, Safe Kids Worldwide reported on the danger of distracted drivers in school zones. The study observed 41,426 vehicles driving in active school zones and found one in every six school-zone drivers was distracted. Distractions included the oft-discussed problems of cell phones and other mobile devices as well as low-tech distractions such as eating and interacting with a passenger.
Anyone who has ever watched kids spill out of an elementary school when the school day ends knows that children don't always look before darting into traffic. As adults, drivers must be responsible and keep an eye out for children, especially in areas where children congregate. If a negligent driver caused a school zone crash that injured your child or tragically claimed your child's life, your family may be entitled to money damages. Such damages can be especially critical when a life-long injury will irrevocably alter your child's future.
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