(August 17, 2016) – Going back to school marks an unofficial end to summer as vacation season ends, daily routines resume and traffic increases.  As the new school year opens, the Maryland Department of Transportation’s State Highway Administration (SHA), Baltimore County and partners urge everyone to review the rules of the road and place traffic safety on back-to-school checklists.  With an enrolled 880,000 students returning to Maryland elementary, middle and high schools over the next two weeks, safety advocates issue a call to action to help protect the State’s youngest morning and afternoon commuters as more pedestrians, bicyclists, vehicles and school buses take to area roadways.

Today partners from SHA, Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS), Police, Fire Department, AAA Mid-Atlantic and the Baltimore Orioles Bird gathered together with students at Perry Hall Elementary School to remind drivers and pedestrians of roadway basics and launch a new awareness initiative.  Whether a parent of a school-aged child or a daily commuter, everyone has a role in back to school and pedestrian safety.

“On average, 100 pedestrians lose their lives on Maryland roadways every year.  Today we are arming some of our youngest commuters with safety information that has the power to prevent injuries and save lives,” said SHA Administrator Gregory C. Johnson. “Everyone needs to help spread the word that safety starts by walking smart, using crosswalks, looking left – right – left, and staying alert.  At some point in the day, each of us is a pedestrian; so when driving, be sure to look up and look out for people walking and crossing roads.”

Press conference participants also unveiled the Look Up, Look Out Campaign that communicates to both pedestrians and drivers. Parents and students should review the rules of the road, especially for walking to school, biking and waiting for the school bus. Drivers need to remember that children will be traveling to and from school, to always stop for pedestrians, be aware of school buses in the traffic mix, and prepared for extra traffic and possibly traffic delays.

"The BCPS Office of Transportation is excited to welcome more than 70,000 students back onto our buses next week, for the new school year. Another 40,000-plus students will use other methods to come to school, including walking and cycling, said David McCrae, Director of Transportation, Baltimore County Public Schools. “ We'd like to take this opportunity, along with our partners here today, to remind all our fellow road users throughout Baltimore County, about stopping for school bus red lights and stop arms, as well as generally taking extra care with the return of our students to the sidewalks and crosswalks."

To reinforce the message, Look Up, Look Out – Stay Alert & Walk Smart, the Baltimore Orioles’ Bird will visit six Maryland schools this fall with a special Walk Smart presentation. Parents are entering their children’s schools to be chosen via the MASN Orioles Facebook page now through September 4. The winning schools will be announced September 8.                       

Motorists should be aware that enforcement is another key component of safety efforts, and local police departments will be in full force in designated school zones where speed limits may be reduced.

“As the children head back to school, we will all notice the increase in traffic both in the amount of vehicles and in pedestrians. It is vital that the motorist keep their speeds down and their eyes on the road,” said Officer Cynthia Spriggs, Baltimore County Police Department, Traffic Management Unit. “The posted speed limit needs to be obeyed to keep everyone safe. On average there are approximately 60 fatalities on Baltimore County roadways each year with approximately 18 of those being pedestrians. As you head out to work, school, or recreation, keep your head up, eyes open and devices down. Both motorist and pedestrians must be alert and pay attention so we all may safely get to our destinations.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administrations (NHSA) reports that from 2004 until 2013, 327 school-age children died in school-transportation related crashes: 54 were occupants of school transportation vehicles, 147 were occupants of other vehicles, 116 were pedestrians, and nine were bicyclists.  More school-age pedestrians were killed between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. than any other hours of the day.  In Maryland over the last five years, 1,000 school-age children were injured and another five were killed during these time periods.

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

“School zone speed limits are in place to save lives,” said Ragina Cooper Averella, Public and Government Affairs Manager for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “While going back-to-school is an exciting time, children may have difficulty gauging the distance and speed of an approaching vehicle, and may struggle to recognize and react to potentially hazardous situations,” Averella added. “Motorists need to slow down, avoid distractions, and be especially vigilant during the morning and afternoon hours when school children are walking to and from school.”

To further enhance the safety of children, SHA offers the following tips:

For pedestrians:

• Use sidewalks and marked cross walks whenever possible.
• Press the pedestrian signal button and wait for the walk signal.
• Always stop at the curb and look left, right and left before crossing a street.
• Watch for cars turning in or leaving driveways.
• Walk, don’t run across the street.
• Wear light or bright colored clothing.
• Pay attention take off headphones while walking – no texting or playing games.

For drivers:
• Always stop for pedestrians.
• Obey traffic signs, signals and markings.
• Don’t run red lights.
• Observe posted speed limits. Speeding only makes it more difficult to stop for pedestrians.
• Keep your eyes on the road. It’s illegal to use a handheld phone/device or text while driving.
• When a school bus stops, the flashing red lights go on and the stop sign flaps come out, drivers in BOTH directions are required to stop. This is the most dangerous time as children are getting on or off the bus.
• It is against the law to pass a stopped school bus with its flashing red lights activated and stop arm extended.
• Drivers must be patient. There is simply no room for aggressive driving around a school bus.

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