School is just about to swing into full gear all across the nation -- and that means that parents will have to face another year of the dreaded "drop-off" zone.
Because many school districts sharply limit busing, anxious parents often prefer to drop their children off at the school rather than allow them to walk from home. There's a lot of sense to that decision -- walking from home puts the kids in all kinds of danger from sleepy or distracted drivers at every crosswalk. It's also reasonable to be fearful about a child's safety when he or she has to walk a significant distance from home alone.
Unfortunately, the school drop-off zone may not be much safer for children and teens than anywhere else -- and it may even be worse. In a study that focused on the safety of students inside school zones, researchers found that many children were "walking while distracted" across parking lots and through the drop-off zone. An incredible 80 percent of students were observed crossing streets in an unsafe manner around the school. In the drop-off zone, one out of every three drivers behaved in an unsafe manner.
What can schools do to make the area nearby safer for students of all ages? Researchers have recommended the following:
- Schools can make changes to high-risk areas to better control traffic through crosswalks, crossing guards, traffic lights and signs.
- Drop-off zone policies can be regulated or limited in a way to reduce confusion or risk.
- Speed limits can be strictly enforced.
- School authorities can aim to educate both students and parents about safe walking habits.
Ultimately, everyone in the community has to work together to keep kids safe -- but schools have a particular responsibility toward the safety of their students. When they fail to protect kids against obvious dangers, they may be held accountable for any injuries caused by their negligence.