Accidents in School Zones: What You Need to Know

Note: This article was updated on July 1, 2021.

Sending Oregon’s children back to school since the onset of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has certainly been challenging. Throughout spring 2021, states across the country considered and adopted a variety of strategies to educate kids safely. While remote learning created all kinds of new challenges for students, educators, and parents, it likely had a positive effect on something that may not have occurred to many: accidents in school zones.

During a typical school year, both automobile traffic and pedestrian traffic near schools increases dramatically. During certain parts of the year, it is dark in the early morning and difficult to see, increasing the prevalence of already alarming dangers in school zones. While school zone laws do much to prevent dangerous activities such as speeding in school zones, accidents can occur, and children can be injured. In this article, we’ll discuss some common issues surrounding accidents in school zones.

The Surprisingly Alarming Dangers of School Zones

The National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA) tracks road safety data in an effort to improve child safety and has shared what it finds to be some alarming dangers in school zones. In 2012, 61 child pedestrians were injured every day. In 2016, five teen pedestrians died every week. From 2013 to 2016, the death rate for teen pedestrians increased by 13 percent. 

The NHTSA has tens of thousands of data observations of both students and drivers. Below are some of the issues surrounding dangerous behavior:

  • The incidence of distracted student pedestrians continues to rise. Twenty-five percent of high school walkers are distracted. Almost 17 percent of middle school walkers are distracted. Much of the distraction results from wearing headphones or using smart devices such as cell phones.    
  • Approximately 80 percent of students cross the road in unsafe places.    
  • Drivers practice unsafe behavior in dropping off and picking up kids.    
  • Many drivers speed in school zones, and some people improperly pass stopped school buses.    

Tips to Keep Your Kids Safe

Lots of organizations offer safety tips. Some of those provided by the NHTSA include:

  • Children should arrive at the bus stop at least five minutes early. People make mistakes when rushed, including running stop signals or speeding in school zones and bus loading zones. 
  • Kids should stay six feet from the road and avoid playing in the street.    
  • Students should not approach the school bus until it completely stops, the door opens, and the driver invites them to board.    
  • No one should walk behind a bus. You likely cannot be seen.    
  • When crossing the street in front of a bus, be at least 10 feet in front of the vehicle. Make eye contact with the driver to be sure you are seen.    
  • Parents should follow drop off and pick up policies set by the school.    
  • Drivers should adhere to speed restrictions and obey traffic controls in school zones. In Oregon, the speed limit is 20 mph in school zones. Children have a much better chance of surviving an accident when drivers refrain from speeding in school zones.    
  • Speed limits in school zones should be enforced by law enforcement.    
  • When walking to school, children should stay on the sidewalks.    
  • Only cross the street in designated crosswalks. Follow traffic controls when doing so.    
  • Do not wear headphones or look at your phone. It is important not to be distracted.    

What to Do If an Accident Occurs

If a child is injured due to the negligence of an automobile driver, the law will hold the driver liable for medical bills, pain and suffering, and other damages suffered by the child and the parents. Drivers are required to exercise reasonable care at all times. A failure to do so can result in liability.

Call with Questions

There is nothing more precious than our children, and we must protect them from wrongdoing. After all, holding a negligent driver accountable is an important part of making sure that all of society understands that reasonable conduct is demanded. 

If your child has suffered an injury due to the negligence of another, you probably have questions about your rights and how to proceed. Call us, and we will be happy to answer these questions for you. The experienced personal injury lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield have handled automobile accident cases all over Oregon. We know the law and how to best proceed with your case. We look forward to your call.


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