Most Oklahoma students are returning to school and AAA Oklahoma warns drivers to be especially vigilant for pedestrians during before- and after-school hours. Nearly one-third of all child pedestrian fatalities in the United States occur between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Through its annual ‘School’s Open – Drive Carefully’ public awareness campaign, AAA aims to help reduce child pedestrian fatalities and injuries.

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling 25 miles per hour is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed as compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling just 10 mph faster.

“It’s that time when motorists need to avoid distractions, and be much more aware and careful, as students head back to schools,” said Mark Madeja, AAA Oklahoma spokesman. “Kids will be walking and biking to school, getting on and off school buses and in and out of cars in carpool lines. All of these situations create extra hazards for drivers as well as the student pedestrians and bicyclists. In addition, many new, inexperienced teen drivers will be driving to school for the first time, creating additional concerns for traffic safety.”

Nearly one-fifth of traffic fatalities of children below the age of 15 are pedestrians, with more school-age pedestrians killed between the hours of 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. than any other time of day.

AAA Oklahoma is also giving the drivers “homework”: Take AAA’s “Don’t Drive Intexticated” pledge to quit distracted driving. “With more distractions than ever, motorists need to make a new commitment to put the phone away and watch out for students," said Madeja. Motorists can sign the pledge online at aaa.com/dontdrivedistracted.

Seven life-saving tips for motorists can get everyone off to a great new school year:

 1.  Slow down. Speed limits in school zones are reduced for a reason. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 25 mph is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling just 10 mph faster.

 2.  Eliminate distractions. Children often cross the road unexpectedly and may emerge suddenly between two parked cars. Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing. Put down the phone.

 3.  Reverse responsibly. Every vehicle has blind spots. Check for children on the sidewalk, driveway  and around your vehicle before slowly backing up. Teach your children to never play in, under or around  vehicles—even those that are parked.

 4.   Brake for buses. It may be tempting to drive around a stopped school bus, but not only is it dangerous, it’s against the law, no matter which direction you’re approaching the stopped bus from.

 5.   Talk to your teen. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, and more than one in four fatal crashes involving teen drivers occur during the after-school hours of 3 to 7 p.m. Get evidence-based guidance and tips at TeenDriving.AAA.com.

 6.    Come to a complete stop. Research shows that more than one-third of drivers roll through stop signs in school zones or neighborhoods. Always come to a complete stop, checking carefully for children on sidewalks and in crosswalks before proceeding.

7.    Watch for bicycles. Children on bikes are often inexperienced, unsteady and unpredictable.   Slow down and allow at least three feet of passing distance between your vehicle and the bicycle.  If your child rides a bicycle to school, require that they wear a properly-fitted bicycle helmet on every ride.

AAA has loaded its website with lots of useful, free information to help keep students safe. Visit AAA.com/Safety.

AAA provides automotive, travel, and insurance services to 59 million members nationwide and more than 417,000 members in Oklahoma.  AAA advocates for the safety and mobility of its members and has been committed to outstanding road service for more than 100 years.  AAA is a non-stock, non-profit corporation working on behalf of motorists, who can now map a route, find local gas prices, discover discounts, book a hotel, and track their roadside assistance service with the AAA Mobile app (AAA.com/mobile) for iPhone, iPad and Android.  For more information, visit www.AAA.com.