With schools reopening next week, drivers urged to take extra precautions

Posted 4 September 2020 at 12:43 pm

Press Release, AAA Western and Central New York

File photo by Tom Rivers: Students are quick to get off the bus on the first day of school at Albion in this photo from Sept. 7, 2016.

There’s no doubt that school openings this year will look much different from every other year. While we are looking to give our children a sense of normalcy in returning to school, there will be some changes to the daily routine. There are many twists and turns that complicate the roadmap for the reopening of schools but figuring out how to get students to school safely may be the most complex.

AAA’s annual “School’s Open—Drive Carefully” campaign alerts motorists to the special risks to school-age children from motor vehicle crashes—the leading cause of death for children from 5 to 14 years old. More parents will be walking and driving their children to school, due to the uncertainty of school bus services and new Covid-19 protocol. Motorists should continue to be extremely cautious of children darting out between parked cars.

To raise awareness of this important issue, AAA teamed up with State Sen. Timothy Kennedy, chair of the New York Committee on Transportation, along with the New York State Police for a virtual press conference on Thursday.

AAA WCNY President Tony Spada emphasized the need to show extra caution when driving as schools reopen since vacation-minded children are apt to be less careful. Motorists should be particularly alert for children darting out between parked cars on busy streets.

“More parents will be walking and driving their children to school, due to the uncertainty of school bus services and new Covid-19 protocol.  Bus patterns will be different,” he said. “And with the virtual model in place at many schools and limited in-person learning, more children will be home throughout the day. That means motorists must be vigilant at all hours and look for children who may be playing near, or even, in the street.”

“In a typical year, there are 55 million students that go back to school across the country. Some are going back in person, some are utilizing a hybrid model, and some are learning virtually at home. We need to treat school zones, in particular, with caution and care, but this year, given the complexities of the pandemic, we need to consider that any community could be a school zone potentially, and we have to be mindful of children outside playing,” said Senator Timothy Kennedy.

“This is an important and successful campaign. Not only do we have cars passing buses on the left, we have cars passing on the right. You’re looking at a 5-point ticket, that is steep, but the real deterrent should be the fact that you can take a life. We want to make sure your children are as safe as they can be when they get on and off that bus every single day,” said Trooper James O’Callaghan, PIO, New York State Police, Troop A.

As part of the campaign, the New York State Thruway Authority will display the “School’s Open” digital message on Thruway TV’s in every service area 24/7 through mid-October and the New York State Office of Parks and Recreation will display “School’s Open” posters in their facilities.

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