School is back in session, which means millions of Americans must pay particular attention to traffic laws, speed limits, road crossings, signage, and other rules that apply to school zones. These rules are in place to protect schoolchildren, yet the greatest risk to young people in school zones may not be speeding, failing to read a sign, or yielding to a crosswalk guard.
Rather, the greatest risk almost certainly comes from drivers breaking any number of laws because they were distracted.
Distracted driving is one of the most common causes of traffic accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines distracted driving as:
“Distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment, or navigation system.”
Distracted driving is particularly dangerous because it causes drivers to commit any number of traffic violations such as speeding, failing to observe posted signage, being unable to brake in time, rolling through stop signs, etc. According to the NHTSA, 3,142 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2020.
According to one study, the 500 feet radius around a school has the highest proportion of child-car collisions and fatalities compared to other urban areas. In Ohio, distracted driving is of particular concern to law enforcement. According to one State Trooper Bulletin:
“In 2017, 13,997 drivers in Ohio crashed while being distracted by something within their vehicles. Fifty-one (51) of these crashes were fatal and resulted in 55 deaths... The number of reported distracted driving fatal crashes nearly doubled from 2016 to 2017 (+96%).”
Ohio State law prohibits the use of “electronic wireless communication devices” by drivers under the age of 18. Texting while driving is illegal in Ohio.
These laws are in place because distracted driving prevents drivers from focusing on the road in front of them, something that creates enormous risk when driving through a school zone. The concentration of young children (who may not be as aware of traffic) coupled with drivers who are unaware of pedestrians (due to being distracted) create a recipe for disaster.
Back to school safety is on the minds of millions of parents. And while people should follow all the traffic safety laws for school zones, perhaps the best advice for families is to ensure they do not drive distracted in school zones. The risks are too great.
Prevention is the best medicine, but when personal injuries do occur, families need professional help. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury while in a school zone, please call NRS Injury Law at 855.977.6670.
 NHTSA. “Distracted Driving.” National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2022. nhtsa.gov
 Carmanah. "Distracted Driving in School Zones." Safe Kids USA, 2022. carmanah.com
 Trooper Shield. "Traffic Safety Bulletin." State Highway Patrol, 2018. publicsafety.ohio.gov