It’s often said that Harvard’s primary business is the education of its children, and next week, on Aug. 28, an estimated 1,050 elementary and high school students, along with staff and teachers, will be headed back to class. Elsewhere in this week’s paper we report on what students and parents can expect this year, including new staff and improvements to the Bromfield cafeteria. For the rest of us, the start of school means big changes to the morning and afternoon flow of traffic on Mass. Ave. and Pond Road in the center of town, which periodically fills with buses, cars, and bikes and, at key road crossings, children bearing backpacks.
The American Automobile Association (AAA) warns drivers to be especially vigilant for young pedestrians before and after school hours. The afternoon hours are particularly dangerous, the organization reports; over the past decade, nearly one in four child pedestrian fatalities occurred between 3 and 7 p.m.
The AAA’s School’s Open—Drive Carefully awareness campaign, launched in 1946, was created to help reduce child pedestrian fatalities and injuries. Here are several of its recommendations:
Slow down. Speed limits in school zones are reduced for a reason. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 25 mph is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling just 10 mph faster. The speed limits on Mass. Ave. and Pond Road are 20 mph.
Come to a complete stop. Research shows that more than one-third of drivers roll through stop signs in school zones or neighborhoods. Always come to a complete stop, checking carefully for children onB sidewalks and in crosswalks before proceeding.
Eliminate distractions. Taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing. And children can be quick, crossing the road unexpectedly or emerging suddenly between two parked cars. Reduce risk by not using your cell phone or eating while driving, for example.
Reverse responsibly. Every vehicle has blind spots. Check for children on the sidewalk, in the driveway, and around your vehicle before slowly backing up. Teach your children to never play in, under, or around vehicles.
Watch for bicycles. Children on bikes are often inexperienced, unsteady, and unpredictable. Slow down and allow at least 3 feet of passing distance between your vehicle and a bicyclist. If your child rides a bicycle to school, require that he or she wear a properly fitted bicycle helmet on every ride. AAA offers videos, expert advice, and safety tips at ShareTheRoad.AAA.com.
Talk to your teen. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, and nearly one in four fatal crashes involving teen drivers occurs during the after-school hours of 3 to 7 p.m. Get evidence-based guidance and tips at TeenDriving.AAA.com.
In addition, AAA offers safety information for children, including coloring pages, games, and car seat safety videos, at SafeSeats4Kids.AAA.com.
Editor’s Note: A version of this editorial appeared in the Aug. 24, 2018, edition of the Harvard Press.