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School Zone Accidents

School CrossingStudents are beginning to return to the classroom across Arkansas and Tennesee, and that means more vehicles and pedestrians are on the road. The car accident lawyers at Rainwater, Holt & Sexton know that increased traffic can also increase the risk of collisions between vehicles and children. In fact, according to recent statistics, more than 100 schoolchildren are injured every single year in accidents that occurred inside of school zones. These accidents often involve motorists failing to recognize the child on the road and the majority of these accidents occur as children are getting on or off of school buses or crossing at intersections near the school. When drivers are speeding, driving recklessly, or driving distracted, serious and sometimes fatal school zone accidents can occur.

To combat the dangers of school zones, cities and counties have made school zone laws stricter. Speed limits through these areas during school hours is often restricted significantly to help drivers slow down and watch for children. Flashing lights or crossing guards are also used to get drivers to slow down and pay attention. Drivers who are caught speeding in school zones are also subjected to increased penalties and fines. These rules and regulations are there to protect children from deadly accidents and from sustaining serious injuries.

School Zone Accidents Statistics

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, school zone accidents cause serious injury to many children and teenagers across the country. Here are some of the most notable statistics related to school zone accidents:

  • Since 2013, the number of teens aged 12-19 killed in pedestrian accidents increased by 13%
  • 1 in 4 high school students were observed to be distracted walkers
  • 1 in 6 middle school students were observed to be distracted walkers
  • 80% of all students were observed crossing the street in an unsafe manner
  • 44% of students were wearing headphones while in school zones
  • 31% of students were actively texting while in school zones
  • Only 4 out of 10 school zones had posted speed limits of 20 mph
  • Marked crosswalks were missing in 3 out of 10 school zones
  • 1 in 3 drivers were observed to be driving distracted through school zones
  • 1 in 4 child pedestrian fatalities occur during the hours right after school ends (3 PM to 7 PM)

Importance of School Zone Laws and Regulations

In Arkansas, a school zone is defined as beginning 300 feet before the school and continuing 300 feet beyond the school. The city should have clearly marked signs to start and finish school zones in the community. While not all school zones are required to have flashing lights, driving laws still apply. Arkansas law states that the speed limit in school zones during school hours and when children are present outside the building should be no more than 25 mph.

Arkansas also enacted a “Fewer Distractions Means Safer Driving Act” to protect children inside school zones from harm. This states that a driver of a moving vehicle is not allowed to use handheld wireless devices while operating the vehicle in the school zone. Texting and driving is illegal everywhere in Arkansas.

When driving near school buses, Arkansas law requires all drivers to stop and wait when a school bus is unloading and loading passengers. All drivers on both sides of the road are required to stop until the school bus is no longer displaying its alternating red warning lights.

There is another additional statute in the state pertaining to school zones known as Isaac’s law. This law states that a person commits negligent homicide if they knowingly and illegally pass a school bus that is actively unloading or loading children and they strike and kill a child in the process. This law was named after Isaac Brien who was killed in 2004 after leaving his school bus. This crime is a Class C felony in Arkansas.

What Can Be Done to Prevent School Zone Accidents?

In and around Fort Smith, Arkansas, the city’s Street and Traffic Control Department has been testing the 55 school zone signals throughout the area. According to KSFM 5 News, the tests insure the flashing lights on school zone traffic signs activate and flash before and after schools are in session.

These traffic signals serve as a warning to drivers to be extra vigilant of others in school zones. Other things you can do to help prevent accidents include:

  • Slowing down- Reducing your speed can give you and others more time to react in the event an obstacle or person comes into the road. Always obey speed limit signs during school hours and when children are present. This alone can save a life.
  • Eliminating distractions- Being able to focus and keep your eyes on the road can also help reduce the chances of being involved in a crash. Put your phone away and avoid any distractions that may take your eyes off of the task of driving. Instead, use Bluetooth devices or simply wait until you are out of the school zone before making any phone calls.
  • Look twice in both directions– Whether your walking or driving, always take a moment to glance twice in each direction before entering traffic at an intersection. Be alert for small children walking or who may be riding their bikes.

We’re There When You Need Us

Over a hundred children are killed in school zones every year. This statistic is sobering for many families who trust that their children will be safe on their way to and from school. At Rainwater, Holt, & Sexton, we believe that even one child that is killed in a school zone is too many. Children have a right to go to school without fear of being injured or killed at a bus stop, while exiting their bus, or while walking to school with their friends. When distracted drivers or reckless drivers don’t take the time to consider your child’s life, they can and should be held accountable.

If your child was injured in a school zone accident, we believe in holding them responsible for their crimes and for the harm they’ve caused your child. No matter where you live, our attorneys are ready to assist you. With six offices in Arkansas and Tennessee—Little Rock, Fayetteville, Conway, Hot Springs, Bryant and Memphis—our car accident lawyers are easily accessible from the moment you are injured. Contact Rainwater, Holt & Sexton Injury Lawyers today.

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