by Joesph Ovick, Ed.D
Contra Costa County Office of Education Superintendent of Schools
As we approach the closing of our schools for summer break, we must recognize that this will be the beginning of our children spending a lot more time out an about on our neighborhood streets. I am asking all of us to be especially safe drivers during these months.
In 2009, 4,092 pedestrians were killed and an estimated 59,000 were injured in traffic collisions in the United States. Pedestrian deaths account for 12% of all traffic-related deaths. Forty-eight percent (48%) of all pedestrians killed in the United States died in crashes that occurred on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, which indicates that those days of the week could represent seven days of the week during the summer for children.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, hybrid vehicles have a much higher rate of being involved in pedestrian accidents. A study conducted by the University of California, Riverside, found that hybrids operating at slower speeds must be 40% closer to pedestrians before they make enough noise to be heard. On average, a pedestrian was killed every two hours and injured every nine minutes in auto accidents in our nation.
Children at age 15 and younger accounted for 7% of the pedestrian fatalities in 2008 and 22% of all pedestrians injured in traffic accidents. We must remember that Children are caught up in the moment (or their smart phones), and may dart out into the street, not realizing that a vehicle is close by.
And, when our kids are not on foot, bicycle safety is equally important. Thirteen percent (13%) of all fatal bicycle accidents affect children under the age of 16 and comprise 25% of those injured. Twenty-eight percent (28%) of all fatal bicycle accidents occur between the hours of 5:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m.
In light of these glaring and tragic statistics, it is imperative that we all remind our children to be safe pedestrians and cyclists—to never assume that they have the right of way and to be aware of their surroundings at all times. In addition, adults and teenagers need to be reminded that they should be cautious drivers, especially during the summer when there are larger numbers of children enjoying outdoor activities throughout our community’s streets.
If we all work together on this, our children and our families will certainly have a more safe and enjoyable summer.