As students across West Virginia start the school year, AAA reminds motorists to be aware of increased child pedestrian activity, school bus presence and bike and car traffic congestion in and around neighborhoods and school zones.

“School zone speed limits are in place to save lives,” said J.J. Miller, safety advisor, AAA East Central. “Motorists need to be especially vigilant during the morning and afternoon hours when school children are walking to and from school.”

AAA also reminds West Virginia drivers that all vehicles must stop upon meeting, from either direction, a school bus that is stopped for loading or unloading children and displays flashing lights and the stop signal arm. This rule does not apply if the bus is on the opposite roadway of a divided highway or if a sign is posted that indicates that a stop is not necessary.

“Concentrating on the road and avoiding distractions is the most important advice I could offer drivers,” said Miller. “Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for two seconds doubles your chances of crashing. Put down your phone. Make yourself a safer driver and sets a good example for young passengers and pedestrians.”

Launched in 1946, AAA’s “School’s Open – Drive Carefully” awareness campaign was created to help reduce child pedestrian fatalities and injuries. Here are additional recommendations for drivers:

Follow the speed limit. School zone speed limits are purposefully set low. Children are unpredictable and may have difficulty gauging the distance and speed of an approaching car.

Always stop for loading and unloading school buses. It may be tempting to drive around stopped school buses. Not only is it dangerous, it’s against the law.

Come to a complete stop at intersections with stop signs. Research shows that more than one-third of drivers roll through stop signs in school zones or neighborhoods. Always come to a complete stop, checking carefully for children on sidewalks and in crosswalks before proceeding.

Eliminate distractions. Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing. Children can be quick, crossing the road unexpectedly or emerging suddenly between parked cars. Reduce risk by not using your cell phone.

Reverse responsibly. Every vehicle has blind spots. Check for children on the sidewalk, in the driveway and around your vehicle before slowly backing up.

Watch for bicycles. Children on bikes are often inexperienced, unsteady and unpredictable. Slow down and allow at least three feet of passing distance between your vehicle and a bicyclist.

Talk to your teen. Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States and nearly one in four fatal crashes involving teen drivers occur during the after-school hours of 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Get evidence-based guidance and tips at

Plan ahead. Leave early for your destination and build in extra time for congestion. Modify your route to avoid school zones and traffic.