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By Jim Adler August 2, 2016

America’s crisis of children hit by cars continues, even in summer months, and with schools reopening soon, drivers must be especially alert for little ones walking or riding bikes on our streets and roads.

Almost 400 Children Are Killed Yearly

According to Parents.com, almost 400 children aged 15 and under are killed yearly when struck by a vehicle. Children riding in vehicles are even more at risk. Around 1,700 children under 16 years old are killed annually in car crashes, with an additional 240,000 children injured.

Further, almost 100 kids under age 4 are killed each year and an additional 2,400 are injured when a vehicle backs over them in a parking lot or a driveway, reports safety group Kids and Cars. Often the driver is a parent or another member of the family.

The Association for Psychological Science says the third leading cause of death for children 5 to 9 years old is getting hit by a car. Also, children make up a disproportionate number of pedestrian casualties worldwide.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2013, 20 per cent of children under 14 who were killed in traffic accidents were pedestrians.

Beyond such statistics for children hit by cars and the staggering tragedies of such events, the financial costs also are enormous. According to Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, pedestrian injuries among kids 14 and younger cost Americans $5.2 billion each year.

Why Children Are Hit By Cars

As for why children are hit by cars, while drivers often are to blame, so are children themselves. Often the reasons involve child behaviour, such as jaywalking or darting into a street. A study released at an American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference and Exhibition showed that the top cause of children 6 and younger being hit by cars was children darting into a street.

For children 7 to 12 years old, the top cause of being hit by a car was jaywalking, or crossing in the middle of a street without protection from a stop sign, stop light or crosswalk.

Also, children older than 6 are most likely to be hit by cars when they’re not being supervised.

School Zones Are Danger Zones

With back-to-school time approaching, it’s vital to be aware that school zones are danger zones for kids. Safe Kids Worldwide reports that most drivers speed in school zones, where large numbers of child pedestrians are more likely to be found than anywhere else.

In Texas, laws are strict regarding driving and speeding in school zones — and they’ve become even more strict in recent years.

In 2013, HB 347 expanded limitations on cell phone use in an active school crossing zone to include property of a public elementary, middle or junior high school for which a local authority has designated a school crossing zone. That means signs must be posted to ban cell phones use in school zones.

Also, HB 1147 raised fines for passing stopped school buses that are loading or unloading children from a minimum of $200 to $500 and a maximum $1,250. The fine for a second offense within five years rose to a maximum $2,000.

Houston, San Antonio, Dallas Fines

Fines also are dependent on the laws in individual cities. Houston, San Antonio and Dallas each apply their own fines for speeding in school zones.

Houston fines for speeding in a school zone start at $215 for going 1-5 miles per hour above the posted speed limit and rise to $325 for going 30 mph over the limit. San Antonio fines for speeding in a school zone begin at $206 for going 1-10 mph over the  limit, rising by $5 for each additional mph. Dallas fines for speeding in a school zone begin at $246 for going up to 10 mph over the limit and rise to $329 for going 20 mph over the limit.

Many school zones have posted speed limits of 20 mph.

How to Protect Child Pedestrians

Knowing how to protect child pedestrians is vital — for all of us, parents and non-parents alike. Paramedics in North Texas cited the following steps to Dallas’ CBS affiliate for helping to protect child pedestrians walking near or on our roads:

  • Parents should teach children to cross streets at crosswalks and to use traffic signals
  • Children should attempt to make eye contact with drivers before crossing
  • Children should look to the left and the right and then left again just before crossing
  • Children should walk — not run — across streets
  • When possible, children should walk instead on sidewalks or paths
  • Children should be alert for cars backing up or turning
  • Children under 10 should not cross streets alone
  • Children should cross 10 feet in front of a school bus and never behind one
  • Children should be taught never to run into a street to chase a pet, ball or toy

Jim Adler & Associates urges everyone — parents and non-parents alike — to be alert to children around our roadways and, when possible, to teach children pedestrian safety tips. Child safety is a duty for all of us.

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