Back-to-School Season Brings Road Hazards

slow and stop signs

Along with excitement, the back-to-school season also brings some road hazards. Morning and afternoon, the roadways clog with school buses, frantic parents, inexperienced teenage drivers, and walkers and bikers who may not look both ways. It's time for everyone to use extra caution. Watch for school zone signs, which might have been inactive during the summer, and obey posted speed limits. Here are some other reminders:

  • Take an extra moment to look for children at intersections and crosswalks.
  • Don't talk on the phone or text while driving. These behaviors are now illegal in most school zones.
  • Look twice before backing out of driveways and parking spaces, and go slowly. The nonprofit reports that every week, more than 50 children in the United States are killed or injured by drivers backing over them.
  • Keep your distance from school buses, and never pass a bus when it's loading or unloading.
  • In heavy traffic, maintain a safe following distance of at least two seconds behind other cars, and avoid the urge to weave or cut through parking lots.
  • If you find yourself rushed in the morning, try waking up and leaving a few minutes earlier, or take a different route to avoid congested traffic.

The number of senior citizens on the road will increase 70% as the baby boom generation ages over the next 20 years, according to the National Safety Council. It's a concern because people older than 65 have the second-highest crash rate of all drivers, after teenagers. This, in large part, is because of seniors' diminishing vision, physical fitness, concentration and reaction time, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Whether you're a driver in your golden years or a concerned son or daughter, consider the following tips to help mature drivers be safer on the road:

  • Upgrade to a vehicle with airbags, antilock brakes, electronic stability control and other safety improvements.
  • Ensure seats, mirrors, seat belts and other pieces of equipment are adjusted properly for your body type and abilities.
  • Get an eye exam. The American Optometric Association recommends annual eye examinations for everyone older than 60.
  • Take a refresher course. To help seniors reassess their skills, many reputable organizations, such as AARP, offer mature-driver safety courses. USAA plans to offer an online course in 2012.

Review The Effects Of Aging On Driving Skills a publication from The USAA Educational Foundation, a nonprofit organization sponsored by USAA.

Monthly Reminder: Check Your Headlights

  • Wipe away any built-up dirt that could obscure the brightness. If the headlight cover appears permanently cloudy, replace it.

During night driving, if you notice that the direction of either light appears off -- pointing to the side or not meeting the road -- have a service station mechanic realign the lamps.

Get Wiser as You Get Older

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