"SCHOOL SCHOOL SCHOOL" stenciled on roadway

In December 2014, two eighth-grade students at Northglenn Middle School in Northglenn, Colo., were hit crossing a street, both sustaining serious injuries. The pedestrian accident happened in a school zone where the speed limit is 20 miles per hour.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 55 million children throughout the U.S. will make their way back to school this year, approximately 13 percent walking or biking to class, and the others waiting on street corners for the school bus to appear.

AAA warns that the afternoon hours between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. are particularly dangerous, and drivers should look out for children caught up in the excitement of back to school and may dart out into the street near school zones, playgrounds, bus stops, and in residential neighborhoods.

Pedestrian Law in Colorado

In Colorado, vehicles are required to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians within a crosswalk if they are in the same half of the roadway as the vehicle, or when a pedestrian is approaching closely enough from the opposite side of the roadway to be in danger.

Pedestrians (and bicyclists) may not suddenly leave the curb on foot and enter a crosswalk into the path of a moving vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. Pedestrians must yield the right-of-way to vehicles when crossing outside of a marked crosswalk or an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection. Where traffic control devices are in operation, pedestrians may only cross between two adjacent intersections in a marked crosswalk and may only cross an intersection diagonally if authorized by a traffic control device.

In Colorado, anyone who commits a moving traffic violation in a school zone will face enhanced penalties and surcharges.

Keeping Child Pedestrians Safe

Some tips from AAA for drivers to keep school children safe:

  • Pay attention to speed limits, particularly in school zones. Speed limits in school zones are reduced for a reason, and a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling 25 mph is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed as someone struck by a vehicle traveling just 10 mph faster.
  • Experts say that more than one-third of all drivers roll through stop signs in school zones or neighborhoods, as opposed to coming to a complete stop.
  • Don’t become distracted. Taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing, and children move quickly — crossing the road unexpectedly, darting out from between parked cars, chasing a ball that has rolled out into the street. Reduce the risk of injuring someone by staying off your cell phone while driving, especially in a school zone or residential area.
  • Be aware of blind spots. Every vehicle has blind spots. Know where yours are, and always check for the presence of children on sidewalks, in driveways, and around your vehicle when backing up.
  • Look out for bicycles. Children who ride bicycles to school may be inexperienced, unsteady, and unpredictable. Always allow at least 3 feet of distance between your car and a bicycle, and if your child bikes to school, require that he wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet.

Many students will be walking to school for the first time in 2015 — don’t let it be their last time.

Image by Daniel Oines

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