More Children Walking and Biking to School = More Attention to Safety
By Zachary Mushkatel on October 12, 2015
According to a study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, parents should encourage their children to walk or bike to school as part of the fight against childhood obesity and in order to promote a healthy lifestyle. The study analyzed National Personal Transportation Survey data between 1969 and 2001. During that thirty-two (32) year span, the rate of children who walked or biked to school dropped from 40.7% to 12.9%, representing “a worrisome loss of physical activity.”
Reversing that trend, however, requires more than simply getting our children to walk or bike to school. We must also make sure they are safe when doing so. To reduce the risk of cycling accident and pedestrian-vehicle accidents involving our children in the greater Phoenix area, parents need to talk to their children about walking or biking safely. Furthermore, drivers need to understand the rules that govern driving through school zones.
As lawyers, and as parents, we are deeply committed to the safety of our communities and we ask you to consider the following:
Rules for Drivers in School Zones and Crosswalks
Phoenix was the first city in the U.S. to create a 15 mph speed limit in school zones, according to DrivingUniversity.com. You will find 15 mph zones and 25 mph zones around schools today in Phoenix and other communities within Maricopa County. As an article on About.com points out, drivers should also pay attention to school zones where the speed limit drops to 35 mph during certain hours or days of the week or when lights are flashing.
Obey the posted speed limits. The decreased speed limits are aimed at protecting our children. The slower you drive, the more likely you are to detect and stop for a child who is walking across the street, or running into the street after a lost object. You are also more likely to slow down and share the road safely with a child who is biking.
Additionally, speeding in a school zone can lead to a doubled fine. Drivers in Arizona face an automatic $200.00 fine if they commit a “moving traffic violation” when school zone speed limit lights are flashing or when a “Stop When Children in Crosswalk” sign is posted. They can also get points on their driving record, which can raise insurance rates.
Finally, drivers should also be reminded to come to a complete stop – regardless of which direction they are traveling – when they encounter a school bus that is picking up or dropping off children. The Arizona Department of Transportation notes that you must remain stopped until the school bus starts moving again or until it stops displaying its stop-sign arm and flashing lights. If you violate the laws regarding stopped school buses, you could face fines ranging from $250.00 (first offense) to $1,000.00 (third or more offense within a thirty-six (36) month period). If it is your second offense in a thirty-six (36) month span, you could also lose your driver’s license for up to six (6) months and for up to one (1) year if a third or more offense.
Teaching Children to Commute to School Safely
Parents and children must do their part, too. If you are a parent, and you have not done so already, take the time to speak with your child about walking and biking safety. Make sure that you discuss:
- Taking the safest route to school – The best route will use sidewalks and intersections with stop signs, stop lights or crossing guards. Avoid any routes that require your child to share the road with cars or to go through parking lots.
- Using caution when crossing – Tell your child to cross only at marked crosswalks and to make a left-right-left scan for traffic before proceeding. If a motorist is stopped at a sign or light, your child should make brief eye contact with the motorist. This helps to ensure the motorist is alert to the child’s presence.
- Wearing reflective tape – If your child is heading to school when it is still dark outside in the morning, it could be difficult for motorists to see the child. Put reflective tape on the child’s backpack. If the child is biking, make sure the bike has reflectors.
- Never playing in or near the street – When children are playing around while walking near a street, it may cause a child to run or fall into traffic. Strongly caution your child against horseplay while walking to school.
We hope parents encourage their children to walk or bike to school whenever possible, and to do so in a safe manner. By following these tips, we also hope parents can experience a higher level of comfort about their child’s safety. However, if despite taking all possible precautions, your child is injured in a collision with a motorist while walking or biking to school, make sure to protect your legal rights by contacting an experienced Phoenix accident attorney at Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC.
Zachary Mushkatel is an Arizona native who earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Arizona in 2001 and his law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School in 2004. After serving as a public defender, he entered into private practice and, ultimately, joined forces with Mathis Becker to form the law firm known today as Mushkatel, Robbins & Becker, PLLC. In addition to criminal law, Mushkatel practices civil litigation, with a focus on estate litigation and personal injury cases. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Surprise Regional Chamber of Commerce and Sun Valley Lodge, and he is an executive officer and member of the Board of Directors for the West Maricopa County Bar Association.