School parking lot more dangerous for kids? 1 in 3 fear rushed, distracted parents put children at risk

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — One in three parents worry that their children are being put in danger by traffic outside their school, according to new research. Speeding and distracted parent drivers top the list of concerns, while a third of moms and dads say those who don’t follow rules should be banned from school parking areas.

More than a quarter of parents fear that it’s likely that a child will get hurt, according to the findings based on more than 900 responses from parents of American children aged six- to 12-years-old.

“Many parents dread returning to the daily hassle of getting kids to school and one of the top concerns involves children safely walking through car and bus traffic,” says Sarah Clark, co-director of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll at University of Michigan Health, in a statement.

More than half of families polled say their children travel to school by car. Only one in 10 youngsters walk or ride a bike or scooter to school.

As well as speeding and distracted drivers, other major safety concerns include parents waiting in no-parking areas, dropping off in the wrong location, children not staying on the footpath and bus drivers not paying attention. “Most schools have a plan to manage traffic and minimize the need for children to walk in front of or between cars,” says Clark. “When parents don’t follow these rules, it disrupts the traffic flow and may mean other parents have to drop off or pick up their child in the middle of the road. This situation may be even more dangerous if parents are distracted by phones or in a hurry.”

The poll shows that all parents think school officials should take action when parents skirt traffic rules near the school.

Two-thirds of moms and dads believe the school should put up cones, gates, or other barriers to better direct traffic flow. Another three in five say law enforcement should give warnings or tickets to parents who violate traffic rules. Most parents agree that their school area is always supervised by a school official or safety officer, and just over two-thirds rated the level of supervision as good.

“Parents in our report overwhelmingly want school officials to be more proactive in addressing school traffic problems,” says Clark.

She notes that elementary school-age children may be particularly vulnerable to traffic-related injuries because they are less skilled at judging when it’s safe to cross the street.

“Parents should first ensure they are consistently following the traffic rules themselves. They can also take steps to prepare their child to travel safely to and from school by making sure they always look both ways for traffic,” adds Clark. “School officials should also do their part to be aware of any safety concerns and strictly enforce rules. Ultimately, the responsibility for keeping kids safe lies with the adults in the school community, including parents, bus drivers, school officials, and law enforcement.”

South West News Service writer Stephen Beech contributed to this report.

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