Drivers beware: School’s About to Start

Arm your kids with walk-to-school safety tips.

It that time of the year again, where the lunch boxes are packed, backpacks are filled and school-aged kids are ready to hit the Campbell pavement on their walk to school.

But drivers and pedestrians alike should beware, as it’s a shared responsibility to keep roadways safe whether you’re on foot or behind the wheel. will be taking a proactive approach, with plans to be out in force to ensure a safe journey to school for all students.

“There are a fairly good number of kids that do walk to school in Campbell, especially to ,” said Campbell Police Sgt. Joe Cefalu. “We plan to have more patrols, more officers out there to show people that we’re in the area and we need people to watch their driving and be careful of the kids.”

Failing to adhere to school zone speed limits of 25 miles per hour, blocking roadways, making illegal U-turns and failure to obey traffic signs could land you with a hefty ticket or worse, an injured child, officials warn.

According to the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration, in 2009, an estimated 59,000 pedestrians were injured; 13,000 of those injured were age 14 and younger, and boys accounted for 55 percent, or 7,000, of those 13,000 hurt.

The NHTSA finds that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children from 3 to 14 years old.

Drivers should pay attention when driving on all roads, but more than ever with city streets being flooded with walkers. Morning drive times between 7:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. are especially significant, as well as the afterschool times of 2:30 p.m. through dusk.

In Campbell, , which includes , , , Branham and Leigh high schools start school on Aug. 22. also begins Aug. 22 and Moreland School District kicks off its year on Aug. 29.

“The No. 1 thing people need to remember is that it is 25 miles per hour when they come into a school zone. Our No. 1 issues is speed, followed by distractions,” said Cefalu. “Slow down and focus more – there are overall distractions not just from texts and cell phones but your screaming kids in the back or a big work presentation on your mind. You need to be focused in a school zone.”

Parents should also talk with their children before ushering them out the door. Officials warn that elementary school children are impulsive and still need guidance and supervision when playing and walking near traffic. Kids can’t estimate speed, and are just learning to read in many cases, so its imperative that parents take the time to talk with their children about the rules of the road and of sidewalks too.

Here are a few tips the NHTSA shares with parents:

When walking:

  • Walk on the sidewalk, if one is available.
  • Walk facing traffic if no sidewalk is available.
  • Don’t assume vehicles will stop. Make eye contact with drivers.
  • Don’t rely solely on pedestrian signals, look before you cross the road
  • Be sure to let a crossing guard know that you are waiting to cross the street

When crossing the street:

  • Cross at a corner or crosswalk with the walk signal
  • Stop at the curb.
  • Exaggerate looking LEFT-RIGHT-LEFT for traffic in all directions before and while crossing the street. Explain you are looking for either no traffic or that traffic has stopped for you to cross safely.
  • Hold your child’s hand when crossing the street.
  • Cross when it is clear and keep looking for cars as you cross.
  • Walk, don’t run or dart, into the street.
  • Look for signs that a car is about to move (rear lights, exhaust smoke, sound of motor, wheels turning).
  • Walk alertly; use your eyes and your ears to increase your safety.

Cefalu says it’s important for police to keep a strong presence during school walk and bike commute times, not only for the safety of the students and roadways but for the community as a whole. 

“It’s great for kids to walk to school, it’s a great thing for the community as a whole,” Cefalu said. “It reduces neighborhood traffic by taking cars off the road, provides exercise for the kids, saves on gas, and it gives people a good sense of community because anytime you get families walking to school, there are more eyes on the area and a lot more opportunity to see if something doesn’t look right -- we could use help like that.”

According to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, walking makes children more alert and ready to learn by the time they get to school, provides physical exercise, contributes to health social and emotional development and could contribute to a healthier and active lifestyle in the future. The agency also reports that only about one out of every 10 trips to school are made by walking and bicycling.


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