The Allegheny County Health Department is warning students and drivers to be alert to potential dangers as thousands of youngsters embark on a new school year.
Teen drivers and pedestrians, many of whom face new routes to school, can assure a safe journey by avoiding distractions and paying close attention to their surroundings, such as traffic signs and signals, other drivers and pedestrians.
Driver inattention is one of the leading factors in most crashes, and drivers 16 to 21 are the primary perpetrators of distracted driving. Its main causes are cell phone use, texting, talking to other occupants in the vehicle and drowsiness.
While parents should encourage teen drivers to think for themselves, they should also reinforce road safety messages in a way that supports their independence. By driving smart and defensively, teen drivers can have a positive impact on traffic safety.
Pedestrian safety is equally important for youngsters traveling to school. Youths age 19 and under accounted for 24% of the region's pedestrian injuries in 2011. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, 121 youngsters were involved in reportable pedestrian crashes and 30 of them sustained moderate to severe injuries.
For parents with younger children, the best way to teach road safety is by setting good examples as role models and by practicing real-life situations. One of the most basic routines is to stop, look, listen and hold hands with younger children when crossing the road.
In addition, motorists are reminded to take extra care now that children are again traveling to and from school and crossing guards are back on duty.
Road safety literature aimed at children, teenagers and parents is being distributed to all primary and secondary schools in Allegheny County.
For additional information about pedestrian safety, teen driving and distracted driving, contact the Health Department's Traffic Safety Education Project at 412-247-7821.