LIMA — This year marks the 68th year that AAA has been running a campaign to encourage drivers to pay attention and slow down for schoolchildren.
The “School’s Open, Drive Carefully!” campaign is running through Aug. 29, according to Cindy Nelson, Lima AAA store manager. The campaign is featuring five school buses parked around Lima reminding drivers that school is back in session and they need to look out for buses. The buses are available because of a partnership with Cardinal Bus Sales & Service.
In addition to the buses, AAA has handed out materials in its stores and passed out posters to area businesses, Kimberly Schwind, AAA spokesperson, said at a news conference Tuesday. New this year, AAA is partnering with the Ohio Department of Transportation to put a message on a Web banner at the bottom of http://ohgo.com.
Lima has 0.3 percent of Ohio’s population but had nearly 1 percent of Ohio’s vehicle pedestrian and bicycle crashes between 2009 and 2013, which includes adults, not just schoolchildren, according to Schwind.
School zone traffic will be far greater now that school is back in session, making it hard for drivers and pedestrians to see each other, which is the reason AAA is encourage drivers to take it slow and pay attention, Schwind said. If a pedestrian is struck by a vehicle going 20 miles an hour, that pedestrian is two-thirds less likely to die than if struck by a vehicle going 30 miles an hour.
“Really people need to slow down,” Schwind said.
The Ohio Department of Transportation encourages students to walk and bike to school but also encourages motorists to be cautious and safe, according to Lori Brinkman from ODOT. The department has a variety of programs that encourage walking and biking and also programs promoting safety.
In an effort to increase safety, the AAA School Safety Patrol Members, a group of students from a school wearing bright safety belts and holding bright flags, are at 30,000 schools, according to Schwind. The program is the largest safety program in the world, which includes some schools in Lima.
Both Unity Elementary and South Science and Technology Magnet have five to seven safety patrol members and an adult in charge, said Tricia Winkler, the principal of both schools.
The members are at the schools before and after school to help warn motorists of children crossing the street, Winkler said.
“It’s important for you as motorists to, in school zone areas, please be very careful when you see these students,” Winkler said.
The Lima Police Department supports AAA’s campaign and encourages motorists to pay attention and be extra cautious, according to Matt Douglass, school safety officer and D.A.R.E. officer at the event. The police will be paying close attention to school zones, he said.