With the first day of school nearing, state and school officials are reminding drivers to be alert in school zones and to stop for buses.
“In 2015, there were 373 fatalities for students and over 11,000 injuries that happened in school zone accidents,” said Sasha Marcinczyk, Georgia Field VP for AAA auto group.
Marcinczyk was one of several to speak to a small crowd Wednesday at Parkway Elementary School in Columbia County, during one of four stops in AAA’s annual “School’s Open - Drive Carefully” campaign, in partnership with the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.
Marcinczyk offered tips for drivers including remaining aware of speed limit and other signs in school zones and also urged parents to talk to their children about safety on the road. Monday is the first day of school in Columbia and Richmond counties.
“It may not seem like a big difference going 30 mph versus going 25. But when a student jumps out in front of you unexpectedly, that 5 miles an hour might be the difference between life and death,” Marcinczyk said, while also urging parents to talk to their children.
“Sit down and talk to them about some of the challenges and responsibilities that come with walking in a school zone and how to be safe both as a driver and a non driver,” Marcinczyk said. “They are both really important things that can prevent crashes, that can prevent, injuries and fatalities.”
Marcinczyk said AAA has implemented several safety programs throughout school systems in Georgia in an effort to educate children before they are old enough to get behind the wheel.
“There has been a lot of focus on schools, at elementary, junior high and high school levels,” Marcinczyk said. “The reason being is that if you can teach kids at a young age, good rules and good things to follow, then as they get older and start getting behind the wheel they are far more likely to be more responsible.”
In Georgia, some 1 million children ride school buses daily, Lt. Jonathan Moushet with the Department of Public safety, motor carrying compliance division, told the group.
Moushet, whose division inspects school buses to ensure safety standards are met, also talked about the dangers of distracted driving and cellphone use.
“ “Put down your cellphone,” she said. “No text message, no Facebook, no social media is worth the life of a child or your own.”
The “School’s Open - Drive Carefully” campaign has been an annual educational push by AAA since 1946, Marcinczyk told the group.
“We are pretty confident at AAA that if we adopt these (tips) on a consistent basis we will see that number go closer to zero on a daily basis and on an annual basis, and like I said that is our goal,” Marcinczyk said.