With back-to-school preparations in full swing, parents certainly have their hands full. But this is a good time to revisit some safety precautions so that children can be safe from cars this school year.

According to statistics from the AAA, 55 million children across the United States will be heading back to school in the coming weeks.  Since about 13 percent of those kids will be walking or biking to and from school, drivers must be extra vigilant when in school areas or crossings. The afternoon hours between 3 and 7 p.m. are the most dangerous, as nearly one-third of the pedestrian fatalities for walking children over the last decade occurred during that time period.

How do you ensure the safety of your children and others from cars this school year? Here are some valuable tips.

1.    Slow down – It just makes sense, but so many drivers fail to use caution when traveling in school zones. The lower speed limit of 25 mph is posted for a reason. Research shows that a child struck by a vehicle traveling at that speed is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed than if struck by a vehicle going 10 mph faster (35 mph).

2.    Watch for bicycles – Kids on bicycles are often inexperienced. They may also be unsteady and they’re always unpredictable. Maintain at least three feet between your car and the bicycle as you pass, and be sure to slow down. Make sure you insist your child that rides a bicycle to school wear a bicycle helmet that’s properly fitted.

3.    Eliminate distractions – Distracted driving accounts for far too many pedestrian fatalities. When it’s our children (or any children) we’re talking about, this is just too great a price to pay. Even two seconds of taking your eyes off the road is enough to result in a crash. And children who dart out from between parked cars may suffer the tragic consequences.

4.    Be extra careful backing up – You may not be aware of it, but every vehicle has blind spots. Even if you have a reverse sensing system or rearview camera, you need to check all areas around your vehicle, including the sidewalk and driveway, to be sure there aren’t any children in your blind spots. Also teach your children never to play around, under or in any vehicles, even those that are parked with the ignition off.

5.    Come to a complete stop – Research is pretty grim on this point, with nearly one-third of drivers rolling through stop signs instead of coming to a complete stop as traffic laws require. Don’t take the chance that you may hit a child crossing the street, either on the sidewalk about to cross or already in the crosswalk. Come to a complete stop and check right, left, and right again before proceeding.

6.    Talk to your teen – If you have a teen driver in the household, now’s the time for a basic refresher discussion on safe driving tips. Car crashes are the number one killer of teens in the U.S., and more than one in four auto crashes in which teens die involve teen drivers during the after-school hours of 3 and 7 p.m.

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