By Eric Tegethoff

Washington News Service

SEATTLE — All across the U.S. at this time of year, 55 million children head back to school, walking and biking to class.

AAA Washington reminds drivers that speed limits in school zones are reduced for a reason.

Jennifer Cook, a spokeswoman for AAA Washington, says it’s very important to slow down in school zones, and not just to avoid the fine, which Washingtonians can’t waive or get reduced.

“The reason that we have the 20-mile-per-hour school zone law is because at 20 miles per hour you’re much more likely to survive a collision with a car — a pedestrian and a car — versus 30 miles per hour,” she points out. “So it makes a huge difference.”

Research shows that more than a third of drivers roll through stop signs in school zones and residential neighborhoods, and Cook says this is a good time of year to remember to come to a full stop and check for children before proceeding.

According to Cook, 3 to 7 p.m. is the most dangerous time during school days, especially as the days get shorter.

One key component to this is not driving distracted. In fact, it’s now against the law in Washington to use your phone while driving.

Cook says drivers should be extra cautious in school zones.

“Children don’t think the same way we do around vehicles, so making sure that you’re not distracted when you’re driving is really important,” she advises. “So maybe save the coffee and the morning breakfast sandwich until after you’re out of a school zone, and just make sure in general that you’re focused on driving in those school zones because it is a highly dangerous area.”

Cook says parents also should take time to review the rules with their teen drivers. Teens driving to and from school present a major hazard.

“Teens are very excited to see their friends again so not everybody’s thinking about the task of driving when they’re behind the wheel,” she states. “So, parents can really talk to their teens about being responsible behind the wheel.”

AAA offers more tips regarding teen drivers at


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