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Four traffic laws motorists should follow everyday

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What a thrill to see the dozens of Walk to School events happening throughout Chicagoland yesterday for Walk to School Day

Schools — from Winnetka to Woodridge, from the City of Chicago to Lansing, and in many more communities — held events designed to get kids moving on their way to from school. 

Walking to school is a great way for kids to get exercise, socialize with friends and arrive at school ready to learn. 

But kids have to be safe while navigating street crossings on their way to school. 

We urge motorists to help keep the streets safer for kids by being alert and obeying traffic laws that are designed to protect people walking. 

Unfortunately, many drivers do no follow the rules of the road and put people walking — particularly children — in danger. 

The following traffic laws are frequently broken in the Chicago region, potentially putting students and others at risk:

  • Stopping for people who are entering a crosswalk in order to cross a street. A common misconception is that this law only applies if there is a stop-for-pedestrians sign at the crosswalk. The law applies with or without these reminder signs. A 2014 survey we performed found just 18 percent compliance with this law in the Chicago region. At intersections with traffic lights, pedestrians must wait for the walk signal. 
  • Yielding to pedestrians already in crosswalks, especially while turning. One of the most frequent ways that drivers hit people walking in the Chicago region is turning into them at a crosswalk while the pedestrian has the walk signal. This can happen with left or right turns. Motorists should proceed slowly at intersections and carefully look for pedestrian and bicycle traffic in both directions before turning. 
  • Obeying speed limits, including school speed zones. Speeding on any street can be dangerous, especially on walking routes to schools. On school days when kids are present, the speed limit near schools is 20 mph. Compliance is crucial since a driver has less time to avoid a collision at faster speeds, and injuries and fatalities are much more likely the higher the speed.
  • Talking, texting or looking at your phone while driving. Safety experts believe distracted driving is causing a growing number of traffic crashes, and people walking are the most vulnerable and at risk. In Illinois, cell phone use must be hands free, and no cell phone use is allowed in school zones. A 2014 observational survey by the Illinois DOT found one out of five Chicago drivers violating this law. Research suggests that hands-free talking is also a dangerous distraction, and we encourage motorists to not talk or text at all while driving.  

Parents and students can follow simple steps to make the walk to school fun and safe:

  • Never assume the driver sees you when crossing a street. Try to make eye contact with drivers before crossing in front of a vehicle. This is especially true if it's dark and you are less visible to the driver. 
  • Learn and follow traffic rules to understand when it's your turn to cross a street. 
  • Don't listen to music through earbuds or look at your phone while crossing streets or alleys.
  • Stay on sidewalks as much as possible and cross streets at cross walks. 
  • Always look both ways BEFORE entering a street. 

 The AAA has more tips for people driving and people walking. 

Photo courtesy of Burden.