Fall is fast approaching, and that means back-to-school season is almost here.
In addition to stocking up on pencils and notebooks for your kids, take some time to brush up on crosswalk safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS), and the Department of Public Health (DPH) provide information on how to drive safely around crosswalks and teach your kids to be careful pedestrians.
Why Is Crosswalk Safety Important?
According to DPH, between 2008 and 2012, pedestrian injuries were the second leading cause of unintentional injury death among kids ages 5–18 in Massachusetts. Additionally, many crossing guards have been injured and several have been killed on the job.
Know Crosswalk Law
When driving near crosswalks, make sure you follow the rules of the road to avoid crashes.
- Stop at Crosswalks — Massachusetts law says that drivers must stop at a crosswalk if a pedestrian is walking on that half of the road or is within 10 feet of crossing that half of the road.
- Don’t Pass Other Cars — You may not pass other vehicles that are stopped at a crosswalk to allow pedestrians to walk.
- Obey Speed Limits — Makes sure you follow posted speed limits near crosswalks. The school zone speed limit in Massachusetts is 20 miles per hour.
Drive Carefully Around Crosswalks
According to the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV), one in five motor vehicle deaths involve a pedestrian. When driving in areas with crossing guards and children, follow these tips to keep pedestrians safe.
- Look out for signs that you are near a crosswalk, such as pedestrian crossing signs, hand-held stop paddles, and the reflective vests that crossing guards wear.
- Slow down when approaching a crosswalk.
- Avoid distracted driving — don’t do things that will take your attention off the road like texting, emailing, surfing the web, or playing games on your phone.
- Look out for pedestrians at all times. Take extra care when you’re in areas with lots of pedestrians like school zones, parks, playgrounds, and bus stops.
- Try to make eye contact with pedestrians so you know that they see you. Just because you see them doesn’t mean they see you.
- Be aware that children and crossing guards may be blocked from view by buses or cars. Use caution around other vehicles.
- If you see a situation where crossing guards are exposed to traffic dangers, contact your local police department or school.
Teach Children How to Cross the Street Safely
Most child pedestrian injuries occur after school. Make sure your kids know these street-crossing tips, and be a good role model when you cross the street with them.
- Look left, then right, then left again before crossing the street, even if you’re at a crosswalk or if there is a walk signal.
- Just because you can see a driver doesn’t mean the driver can see you. Try to make eye contact with approaching drivers so you know that they see you.
- Wait for drivers to stop before you start to cross the street.
- Use crosswalks and follow walk signals. Don’t cross in front of a parked car. Drivers won’t be able to see you behind the vehicle.
- Cross the street responsibly — don’t text, listen to music, or do anything else that will distract you. Stay aware of your surroundings and walk, don’t run, across the street.
- Be careful in parking lots, driveways, and other places where pedestrian crashes are common. Look for signs that a car is about to move or back up, such as rear lights, the sound of the motor, and wheels turning.
- Stay on sidewalks when possible. If there are none, walk facing traffic.
- Wear retro-reflective clothing when walking in the dark.
By following these tips while driving and teaching your kids to be cautious pedestrians, you can help keep crossing guards and children out of harm’s way throughout the school year.
Tell us how you teach your kids pedestrian safety by commenting below or tweeting @MassGov.
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