AUSTIN, Texas — As thousands of Central Texas students head back to school, the school year brings not only an increase in traffic but also a heightened potential for traffic-related injuries.
According to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), 746 traffic crashes occurred throughout Texas school zones in 2022, which resulted in serious injuries for 23 people. Driver inattention, speeding and failure to yield the right of way are the most common causes of traffic accidents, which continue to be one of the most frequent causes for emergency room visits.
Kristen Hullum, the trauma injury prevention coordinator at St. David's Round Rock Medical Center, said it may be a good idea for drivers who are not trying to get their kids to school to find alternate routes or methods, such as leaving home a little earlier or later or taking different routes to avoid school zones altogether.
"One, so that you don't have to go through it. But two, because school zones can get very, very congested and [have] lots of traffic through there. So if we can decrease the amount of cars coming through here, that's all the better," Hullum said.
Health officials say anything can happen inside school zones and parents need to be talking to their kids about safety precautions frequently.
"Even offering reminders throughout the school year that they need to be not walking distractedly, not using their cellphone and really paying attention before they step off that curb to look both ways for cars if they're biking or skateboarding to school," Hullum said.
She said parents should be teaching their kids to only cross at the corners as opposed to in the middle of the street.
"Crossing at corners is the safest place to cross. Parents should demonstrate and say it many, many times, 'Okay, let's stop and look both ways,' and and remind their kids that drivers do not always see the kids," Hullum said.
According to officials, kids will think that a car will always see them. However, that's not always the case. So it's important that parents are giving constant reminders to their kids about how to cross the street safely. If there is a crossing guard around a school zone, make sure kids are crossing where the crossing guard is at and not somewhere else, even if that means they have to walk a little further out of their way.
"Drivers need to be sure that they are very familiar with the laws, with school buses. If you are behind a school bus, expect that it will probably make frequent stops and it takes a minute for those kids to get safely on and off the bus and seated before the school bus driver will go," Hullum said. "So be sure that you're paying attention to those flashing red lights and if it has the stop sign that comes out."