Traffic issues around schools has become a major problem nation-wide. Every weekday between seven thirty and nine, elementary school kids are trying to cross streets heavy with commuter traffic on its way to work. With this mixture of kids and cars, there is always a chance for tragedy. To make the problem worse, studies show that nearly 2/3 of drivers speed through school zones. Around 700 children die each year in pedestrian traffic accidents and around 40 to 50 thousand more are treated for injury related to pedestrian car accidents
Part of the problem is that children under 10 have dificulty judging how far away a vehicle is, or how fast it is moving. They are also easily distracted, and pay little attention to traffic while talking and playing. They often assume the driver has seen them, so it is ok for them to cross. Children also frequently cross the street in their designated areas without looking, assuming all drivers will obey the cross walk rules and stop. Unfortuantely this is not always the case.
Parents and school administrators want measures to slow down or to divert traffic. Unfortunatly, traffic engineers focus on moving commuters as efficiently as they can. This usually conflicts with school traffic needs. Budgets often dont allow for major revision to area roads. Some would like to see raised pedestrial crosswalks near schools. Again, budget and other constraints prevent this from being possible in most situations.
There are some saftey measures that can slow down traffic with less expense. Speed bumps and speed humps (Yes, that is the actual term, describing a broader raised area on the road) have demonstrated effictiveness in slowing down auto speed. Flashing lights on speed limit signs help in some situations. Some schools are allowed to baracade streets at the schools busy times. Others have created one way streets which help control traffic.
Parents also need to make sure they take the time to discuss safe pedestrian rules with their children. While every parent talks with their child about looking both ways, traffic safety goes well beyond those steps. You might be surprised just how much more there is to cover. There are several traffic safety issues which are generally not discussed by parents, which is how the majority of children are hit or killed. Global Childrens Fund publishes a book, “How NOT to get Runned Over” which teaches this important subject, in a funny and clever way that kids will enjoy. You may be surprised what you didnt know about traffic safety for kids.
Parents can also help by volunteering at their childs school as a cross guard. Schools often have limited cross guards, and use them for the streets immediately outside their school. However, there are frequently busy roads a block or two away, which get just as many children crossing with no protection. Schools are always appreciative of the extra help.
Parents can also get involved by monitoring the traffic around their childs school, and pushing for better safety measures in their community. While changes can sometimes be hard fought, those who are safety conscious in their community and let their representatives know about it will generally see results.
Have a happy and safe year!