Back-to-School Traffic Puts Students at Risk

As students head back to school, drivers should be ready for increased vehicle and pedestrian traffic, especially in neighborhoods and school zones. With recent data indicating an uptick in fatal pedestrian crashes, it’s more important than ever for motorists and students to remain vigilant during before- and after-school hours.

“As we transition back to a new school year, drivers should plan ahead, give themselves plenty of extra time, and be on the lookout for students walking, biking and waiting for the bus,” said Kellie O’Riordan, driver education programs manager for AAA Ohio Auto Club. “We must work together to keep everyone safe.”

Pedestrian Deaths On the Rise:

Pedestrian fatalities jumped 13% last year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

In Ohio, 176 pedestrians died last year from traffic crashes, according to the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT). This is nearly 20% higher than the five-year average (2017-2021).

Young pedestrians are not immune. During the past five years, ODOT says 2,955 crashes involving pedestrians 18 years old or younger occurred in Ohio (about 591 each year). These resulted in 78 young pedestrian deaths, including 14 killed in 2021.

Students going to and from school are especially at risk, as ODOT data shows young pedestrian crashes spike in the morning and afternoon, with 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. standing out as the peak hours for crashes involving pedestrians 18 years old and younger. Thursdays and Fridays also prove especially dangerous.

Safety Tips for Drivers:

Since 1946, AAA has been dedicated to helping reduce the number of school-related pedestrian injuries and fatalities with the School’s Open, Drive Carefully campaign. Through this campaign, AAA urges drivers to:

  • Slow down: Speeding has become a major issue on Ohio’s roads. As vehicle and pedestrian traffic increases, it’s even more important to slow down and obey neighborhood and school zone speed limits. Just 10 mph can mean the difference between life and death for a pedestrian struck by a vehicle.  
  • Eliminate distractions: Children on foot or bicycle are often unpredictable and may cross the road unexpectedly or emerge suddenly between two parked cars. It’s important to pay attention at all times, especially in school zones and neighborhoods.  
  • Obey all school zone signs, signals and markings. These are in place for everyone’s safety. Ignoring them could lead to traffic citations or worse.
  • Plan ahead: Expect extra traffic in areas where school will be in session. Leave early or modify routes to avoid school zones and bus stops. Remember, driving around a stopped school bus is dangerous and illegal.
  • Buckle up: Buckling up is the most important safety measure you can take to protect yourself in a crash. Also remember to use appropriate child safety seats and booster seats when transporting children.
  • Look for AAA School Safety Patrollers and Crossing Guards: Since 1920, AAA School Safety Patrollers have worked at schools across the country to keep their classmates safe. Today, more than 679,000 Patrollers in about 35,000 schools volunteer their time to help their peers get on and off buses and walk to and from school safely. (Note: Local participating schools and advisor contacts are available upon request. Video footage for media use is available here.)

More information on AAA’s School’s Open, Drive Carefully campaign — including tips for parents — is available at

AAA provides 63 million members with travel-, insurance-, financial-, and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and an advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at


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