Safety Experts Urge Driver Caution as School Year Starts

With some schools in full swing in some counties and revving up in others, drivers need to be on alert for increased foot traffic to help ensure pedestrians’ safety.

An expert at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt offered safety tips to prevent child-pedestrian injuries, which often increase as routines change during the back-to-school season.

“The start of the school year is the most dangerous time on neighborhood streets and in school zones for child-pedestrians and bus riders,” said Purnima Unni, MPH, CHES, Pediatric Trauma Injury Prevention Program Manager at Children’s Hospital. “I think a big focus needs to be placed on the issue of distractions. Now that the Hands Free Law banning cellphone use has been enacted, pedestrians need to be alert. There are a lot of folks walking and texting and not paying attention to the road.”

Every day in the United States more than 40 children are hit by cars while walking, according to Safe Kids Worldwide. Unintentional pedestrian injuries are the fifth leading cause of injury-related death in the United States for children ages 5 to 19.

Unni hopes new legislation, passed in January, aimed at curbing drivers’ cellphone use in Tennessee school zones, will help keep pedestrians safer.

“As students head back to school, it’s particularly important to obey traffic laws and drive safely in school zones,” stressed Unni.

“Be patient during drop off and pick up if you drive your student to school or drive near a school. The roadways surrounding schools are often congested during these times.”

Unni urges drivers and pedestrians to be vigilant while traveling in school zones.

“Parents should talk with their children about safe pedestrian practices,” she said. “Walkers should keep their eyes on the road and focus on their surroundings, not on their phones. They should put away their phones and headphones until they reach their destinations.” 

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