Is Safety on Your Syllabus?

Three-and-a-half months ago, we joined with many of our safety partners to publicize the fact that summertime is a particularly deadly period for teens on the road. Longer trips, later nights, and relaxed attitudes can all contribute to a spike in teen driving – and crash risk – during this time. The National Organizations for Youth Safety, therefore, challenged all of us to have the summer of 2012 be the “Safest Summer Ever.” We sincerely hope that for you and your family and friends, it was.

Just because the summer is winding down, however, doesn’t mean it’s time to let safety slip off the radar screen. After all, motor vehicle crashes are the leading killer of young Americans – all year long. And with kids heading back to class and family routines crystallizing again, back-to-school time provides an excellent chance to promote safety within your family.

If you drive your kids to school, that time in the car is a perfect opportunity to model safe behaviors and attitudes for them. If they see you buckling up, putting away your cell phone and other distracting items, slowing and stopping properly for school buses, and using extra caution at crosswalks, they’ll have an implicit understanding of the importance of such actions. It’s never too early to start building awareness of the responsibilities that come with being a driver, pedestrian, or bicyclist.

Promoting safety in the hours after school lets out is crucial, as well, as this is one of the deadliest times of day for teens. All too often, teens pile into cars with their friends, and the results can be deadly. AAA Foundation research has shown that the risk of teens being killed in a crash skyrockets when passengers are present, and that despite laws in most states restricting newly-licensed teens from driving with their peers, roughly 40 percent of teen drivers killed in crashes were carrying passengers. This is a good time of year, therefore, to talk with teens about the importance of obeying passenger restrictions, and to make sure alternative transportation options to sporting events, jobs, and other activities are available.

AAA and the AAA Foundation have long been engaged in addressing school- and child-related traffic safety concerns. The AAA School Safety Patrol program has turned generations of children – including Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton – into traffic safety leaders at their schools. Participating students take on the responsibility of helping move traffic and pedestrians safely and efficiently through school zones, and volunteers have saved nearly 400 lives in the program’s history. Additionally, the AAA Foundation offers a variety of instructional materials related to school safety, including videos on crossing guard training and school bus safety.

Safety may not officially be on the syllabus for your students this year, but we hope it will be taught and promoted all the same. By working together, we can make sure kids of all ages are able to come to school ready and able to learn, because they are safe.