School Zone Accidents – Causes and Statistics
Students are beginning to return to the classroom across Arkansas and Tennessee, which means more vehicles and pedestrians are on the road. The car accident lawyers at Rainwater, Holt & Sexton law firm 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 personal injuries.
Causes of School Zone Accidents
Accidents in school zones can involve many different factors, but the true cause usually comes down to two issues – Distracted or negligent drivers, and distracted walkers.
Negligent drivers – Some drivers deliberately and negligently choose to ignore the speed restrictions and cautions that a school zone requires. These drivers may even see the pedestrian before a collision but not have enough time to react or stop because of their reckless driving.
Distracted drivers – Distracted drivers are three times more likely to be involved in an accident. This is because distractions like cell phones, texting, eating and others make it difficult to be aware of details such as speed, signage, and surroundings. A distracted driver may not even realize they are in a school zone, or that they are speeding, before the collide with a child pedestrian. Studies have discovered distracted driving to be comparable or even worse than driving drunk.
Distracted walkers – Children and pedestrians are more distracted than ever these days. They are even more likely to walk into roads without paying attention when in a school zone. Even children who have been educated about traffic laws can get excited or distracted and step into roads without looking. When a distracted walker n a school zone is combined with a distracted or negligent driver, the result is often a devastating accident.
School Zone Accident 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)
How School Zone Accidents Differ From Other Accidents
There are some key differences that set school zone accidents apart from other types of accidents. Unlike other car accidents, school zone accidents:
- More frequently occur on weekdays, especially Wednesdays, instead of weekends.
- Often happen during the day with decent lighting conditions, rather than at night with reduced visibility.
- Commonly occur during good weather, rather than in inclement weather conditions.
Accidents in school zones often involve children, either as victims or witnesses. Not only does this make the situation more intense and emotional, there are important legal implications to consider.
- When a child is injured in a school zone accident, they can’t represent themselves in court. This means any lawsuit has to be filed and pursued by a parent or guardian, or another representative.
- Children merit a higher duty of care, which means any compensation owed could be much higher than in accidents involving adults only.
- Child pedestrians are held to a lower standard thank adult and are rarely considered contributorily negligent, even if they were distracted. Adult cases, on the other hand, can be negatively affected by any contributory negligence found.
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 far away from 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.
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 on a cell phone 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, even when there are no crossing guards. 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.
Other Types of School Accidents We Represent
You deserve a law firm that knows the ins and outs of Arkansas and Tennesse school traffic laws. The attorneys at Rainwater, Holt & Sexton are experienced, trustworthy, and ready to find justice for any of the following school accident types:
- Distracted Drivers
- Hit and Run
- Crosswalk Accidents
- Pedestrian Accidents
- School Bus Accidents
- Personal Injury
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 in Little Rock and beyond 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 across a school crossing 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, our law firm believes in holding them responsible for their crimes and for the harm they’ve caused your child. No matter where you live, our personal injury attorneys are ready to assist you. With seven offices in Arkansas and Tennessee—Little Rock, Springdale, Conway, Bryant, Hot Springs, Jacksonville, and Memphis—our car accident lawyers are easily accessible from the moment you are injured.
This post was originally published in August 2019 and has been reposted in 2020 with updated information.