With the new school year approaching, plenty of children will be walking to school each day. Despite the benefits of exercise and fresh air, there are dangers of walking to school. Deadly pedestrian accidents have been on the rise in recent years, and bus stops and school zones aren’t exempt from the risks.
Historically, pedestrians have been 1.5 times more likely to suffer fatal injuries in a collision than vehicle occupants.
With many industries still operating remotely, you might think that fewer cars on the road would reduce the risks of pedestrian accidents. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. The 6,721 projected pedestrian deaths that occurred in 2020 represent a 21 percent increase from the previous year that NBC News called “mind-boggling.”
A fatal accident is the worst-case scenario, but even when pedestrians survive, they may sustain severe, life-changing injuries. For every pedestrian who lost their life in a crash in 2017, nearly 23 pedestrians suffered nonfatal but serious injuries and had to be treated in the emergency department, the CDC reported.
Some of these injured pedestrians may face long-term or lifelong pain, limitations in mobility, and diminished independence. Others may only recover by undergoing a great deal of medical treatment—which may mean enduring considerable pain and suffering, as well as taking on a huge financial burden.
Pedestrian accidents are a serious matter, and preventing them should be a top priority for parents this school year.
While pedestrian accidents can affect everyone, children are particularly at risk. Children under age 15 accounted for one in five pedestrian fatalities in 2017, according to the CDC.
If you have children walking to school this year, go over these three safety tips with your kids.
As the seasons change, some children find themselves walking to school before the sun is fully up or home from school after it has already begun to get dark, especially if they stay late for extracurricular activities. Visibility is key to making sure drivers know kids are there, especially during hours of darkness.
Consider getting your children jackets and backpacks that incorporate bright colors and reflective material. Light-up sneakers can keep kids visible when walking in the dark. So can carrying a flashlight.
It isn’t only times of full darkness that prove problematic for pedestrians. Dawn and dusk can be difficult times for drivers to see, which makes them potentially hazardous for walkers, too. If the sun is still coming up or is in the process of setting, pedestrians should use extra caution, particularly around intersections.
Never assume that a driver sees you. Make eye contact—and make sure that a driver is actually waving you on, not just trying to block out the glare of sunlight—before stepping out into the road, even at a crosswalk.
Children’s small size can make it difficult for drivers to see them even when visibility is excellent, and that can lead to an accident. Younger children should walk with an adult or in a group to improve their visibility to drivers in the area. Kids should be aware of their surroundings, including drivers backing up out of their driveways and exiting parking lots that are along their route to and from school.
The more kids are able to avoid traffic while walking to school, the lower their chance of being hit by a car. When possible, choose a route to school where children can stay on sidewalks the majority of the time.
If kids must walk on the roadway, remind them to stay as far to the shoulder or edge of the road as possible and watch and listen for approaching cars. It’s safer to walk facing traffic than facing away from it, according to the CDC.
Cross the street only at intersections, and use crosswalks wherever possible. Find out whether your community stations any crossing guards along your child’s route to help kids get to school safely.
Be vigilant of hazards that could occur in your path, such as weather-related obstacles like ice buildup, construction that closes a stretch of sidewalk, and cracks or holes that could cause a fall. While slips, trips, and falls don’t involve the same magnitude of forces that motor vehicle collisions do, these accidents can still lead to significant injuries.
Kids are naturally energetic and even rambunctious, so some amount of playing around during a walk to or from school is expected. Unfortunately, what starts out as innocuous horseplay can sometimes turn dangerous. It’s important that kids understand what is and isn’t safe when walking to and from school.
Avoid any activity that could pose a risk of falling into the path of a vehicle, including pushing or shoving others. Don’t dribble, kick, or throw a ball near the road. If it winds up in the street, a child might chase the ball into traffic and get hurt, or a driver may swerve to avoid it and end up hitting someone who they didn’t notice was walking on the shoulder.
Kids are known to pick up rocks, sticks, and other debris they find outside. This can be dangerous, too. Children should never try to retrieve items found in the road, which could put them in the path of oncoming cars. They should also be careful reducing their visibility by bending down to pick up something off the ground near the shoulder of the road.
No child should ever lose their life walking to or from school, but every year, these tragedies happen. Taking precautions to stay visible, walk safe routes, and avoid dangerous roughhousing can go a long way toward preventing a devastating pedestrian accident. If you or your child have been were hit by a vehicle while walking, contact our pedestrian accident attorneys to get your questions answered, and find out how we can help.