Across the state of Maryland, approximately 900,000 students attend public schools. Local agencies have been actively working to increase awareness about the many potential safety concerns with children on or near roads, particularly near school zones. Greg Slater, of the state's Department of Transportation, says that it is important to emphasize school and highway safety concerns.
Motorists traveling through school zones will encounter many children walking, biking, exiting school buses etc. Last year, there were 107 pedestrian fatalities and over 3,300 pedestrian injuries; over 500 of these accidents involved kids who were under the age of 15. Drivers should keep in mind that enforcement efforts are being increased throughout the region.
In Prince George County, backpacks were given out to over 60,000 young students as part of the “Look Up, Look Out” safety campaign. Chick-Fil-A designed the packs which feature bright and reflective safety strips and contained information about traveling to school safely. The Chick-Fil-A cow is even visiting schools as part of a “Walk Smart” educational initiative that includes prize drawings.
AAA has continued their efforts to promote roadway safety with their “School's Open - Drive Carefully” program that encourages drivers to be careful when traveling in school zones and residential areas to avoid potential pedestrian injuries and fatalities. AAA's approach includes the use of print materials, media efforts, and community-based outreach.
School buses use red flashing lights when in the process of loading or unloading passengers; during which time, drivers are prohibited from passing. Those who violate the stopping requirements around school buses may face fines up to $500. Ragina Averella, with AAA Mid-Atlantic, wants to remind those that are in a hurry to slow down. Hector Velez, with the Prince George's County Police, says the department is committed to keeping students safe during their travels to and from school this year.
Maryland's Department of Transportation State Highway Administration has issued the following reminders:
- When possible, always use the sidewalk and marked crosswalks
- If equipped, use the signal button designed for pedestrian crossings to switch the signal to ‘walk'
- Always look both ways at the curb prior to crossing
- Be sure to check for vehicles entering or leaving driveways
- Walk rather than running when crossing streets
- Avoid wearing headphones, texting, playing games, or other distractions while walking
- Wear clothing that is light or brightly colored to allow for motorists to more easily notice you
- Always yield right-of-way to pedestrians
- Be aware of the speed limits—speeding makes it more difficult to stop if you encounter a pedestrian
- Avoid usage of mobile devices and stay focused on the road
- Remember that vehicles traveling in both directions are required to stop when school buses use their flashing red lights