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Schools are open -- how safe are your children in school zones?

Parents in Springfield and other cities in Illinois will naturally be concerned about the safety of their children as they walk or ride in school zones. Regardless of the ages of your children, their lives will be at risk. It is the responsibility of both motorists and pedestrians to observe applicable transportation laws in school zones.

As students and their parents get into the routines of the new school year, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration released shocking data to underscore the dangers that are typical in school zones. From 2008 through 2017, as many as 264 children under the age of 18 lost their lives in accidents related to school transportation. These numbers include pedestrian and vehicle-related accidents.

Child pedestrian safety

If you teach your children the following precautions and rules from a young age, you will lessen their risks of being injured on their way to and from school:

  • Make sure an adult or a responsible young adult accompanies your children as they walk to and from school. Advisers suggest this safety precaution for all children under age 10.
  • Whenever possible, walk on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk, teach your children to walk facing the traffic.
  • Only step onto the roadway at designated crosswalks and intersections. Never step off the curb or enter the road before you have the right of way.

Bus riders

A significant number of school transportation-related accidents occur around school buses. For that reason, children must know the dangers and the following safety precautions:

  • Even waiting for the school bus can be dangerous. Teach your children to take at least five giant steps from the roadway, and wait there for the arrival of the bus.
  • It is dangerous to approach the bus before it comes to a complete halt. The safe way is to wait for the bus to stop, and only move forward when the bus driver says it is safe to board.
  • When your children exit the bus, they must remember that the most dangerous areas are close to the bus. The first thing to do is to take those five giant steps away from the roadway again.
  • From that position, they can wait for the driver to signal that it is safe to cross the street. However, as an extra precaution, they should look left, right and left again after the driver signals for them to cross, and if they are then sure that no cars are coming, they can proceed.

Safety notes for drivers

Drivers must take particular care when they approach school zones, especially from 7 a.m. through 4 p.m. Parents who have young children might be more aware of the dangers than other drivers. Compliance with the following rules is crucial:

  • Reduce traveling speed to 20 mph.
  • Yield to all pedestrians in the crosswalk area -- both students and adults.
  • When a marked official is present, obey his or her commands.
  • Upon approaching a stationary school bus, stop and wait until loading or offloading is complete, and all the pedestrians have crossed safely.

You can take the additional precaution of having your children sit in the rear seat because statistics indicate that the risk of severe injuries to front-seat passengers is significantly higher.

What are your rights if a driver strikes your child in a school zone?

Although a negligent driver who struck your child in a school zone can face criminal charges, which could lead to fines or even jail time, you may have grounds to pursue a claim for financial relief. The Illinois civil justice system allows the parents of injured children to recover medical expenses and other financial and emotional damages. Proving negligence might be challenging, but the support and guidance of an experienced personal injury attorney can simplify the entire legal process.

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