Over one-third of pedestrian accidents involving children occur between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., while children are walking home from school and after-school activities. Since we know where and why these collisions are happening (drivers ignoring school zone laws), we must do everything possible to protect our children and hold the negligent drivers liable.

This is especially true in Columbus and Phenix City where some of the sidewalks around our schools are next to the road and not buffered.

What the Law Says About Distracted Driving

In 2018, Georgia passed a “hands-free” law making it illegal to hold a cellphone or have your cellphone touching any part of your body (such as sitting on your lap) while driving a vehicle. This law makes a difference when followed!

Prior to this, only texting while driving was illegal, but other dangerously distracting activities like taking photos or video, scrolling through social media or music playlists, and watching videos while driving were still allowed.

The law was passed in part due to the advocacy of the families of five students who were struck and killed by a truck driver who later admitted to texting while driving.

The law also allows school districts to use speed cameras within their school zones to catch drivers who violate school zone speed limits during school hours and for up to one hour before and after. The hope is that by making people aware that they risk a hefty ticket, they will be more cautious when driving.

Related Reading: Why Children Are More Likely to Be Injured in Pedestrian Accidents

Tips for Safe Driving in and Near School Zones

Never Make or Respond to Phone Calls or Texts While Driving:

Hands-free calling and texting are currently still legal in Georgia. However, hands-free calls and texts are still distracting. There are three aspects to distracted driving: when it takes your hands off the wheel, your eyes off the road, or your mind off the task of driving. Hands-free calls still fall into the third category.

Never Input Any Driving Directions While Driving:

While using a GPS device while driving is legal, it also involves all three aspects of distracted driving! Rather than trying to type an address into your GPS while exiting a parking spot or in the pick-up line at school, do it only while your vehicle is parked.

Slow Down:

Most school zones in Georgia have a speed limit of 25 MPH, even when the speed limit outside the school zone is much higher. School zones usually extend for one to two blocks of the school in all directions.

And this is important, because speed kills. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a pedestrian struck by a vehicle going 20 MPH has a 5% chance of dying in the collision, but a pedestrian struck by a vehicle going 30 MPH was a 40% chance of being killed. At 40 MPH, the risk of death increases to 80%.

Keep Your Eyes Peeled:

Children, especially younger children, are often impulsive and don’t understand the dangers that cars pose. They often run out into the street without looking or using a crosswalk.

Because children don’t understand the danger, that puts the responsibility to prevent accidents on the driver. When you are driving through an area where you know children may be walking or playing, put away anything that could serve as a distraction from watching the road.

Finally, as mentioned earlier, many streets in Columbus don’t have sidewalks or only have poorly constricted sidewalks near the road. Children sometimes have to walk on the shoulder of the road, making them more vulnerable to being struck by distracted drivers. Please be careful!

Come to a Complete Stop at Stop Signs:

According to AAA, more than one-third of drivers admit to blowing through stop signs in active school zones. It may be tempting to simply slow down when approaching a stop sign and then continue through if you don’t see any other vehicles, but this is very dangerous.

Children are harder to spot than other vehicles, and as mentioned above, they are impulsive. It may appear to a driver that a child is not going to cross until the driver is already through the intersection, only for them to suddenly run out in front of their car!

VIDEO: Gary Bruce discusses crossing guard rules.

Was Your Child Injured by a Distracted Driver in a School Zone?

Far too many drivers treat school zones as an annoyance that they can ignore, and it leads to thousands of injuries and dozens of deaths every year.

If you were involved in a crash in a school zone caused by a distracted driver, or your child was struck by a distracted driver while walking home from school, the distracted driver must be held accountable. Reach out to our Columbus auto accident attorneys today to learn how we can help.