AAA: Watch for driving distractions as school opens

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – AAA says drop the distractions while driving as 40,000 young people will be entering the traffic mix on their way to and from school each morning and afternoon.

School buses, child pedestrians and school crossing guards will disrupt the usual flow of traffic. Any mental distraction,
even if it is a communication on a hands-free device, can cause drivers to scan the road less and miss visual cues in their peripheral vision according to a recent AAA study. Nationally, more that 330 Child pedestrians died and 13,000 were injured in 2013. Nearly one-third of child pedestrian fatalities occurred between 3 and 7pm.

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s 2013 study on Cognitive Distraction, cell phone users get “tunnel vision” during and after their conversations. As mental workload and distractions increase a driver’s reaction time slows, and brain function is compromised, increasing the potential for a motorist not to see a pedestrian or bicyclist. “Children under 9 years have less side vision than adults, and can not localize sounds,” said Lilla S. Mason, AAA spokesperson, “as a result many child pedestrian accidents happen when a child darts into traffic as though completely unaware cars were coming.”

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AAA offers the following tips for drivers:

  • Behind the wheel make driving your only task. It’s for the kids.
  • Scan low around parked cars looking or signs of children.
  • Anticipate that any child near the street could dart out into traffic.