With students throughout the Pikes Peak region returning to class this month for the fall semester, drivers are being reminded to slow down around schools.

In 2017, four Colorado Springs School District 11 students walking to their elementary school were hospitalized after being hit by a driver who was turning and didn’t see them in the crosswalk.

All four recovered, but it illustrates the danger of distracted drivers in school zones, especially in August, when some might not be aware school are open again.

“People need to get their heads in gear before school starts,” said Rick Stull, the risk and wellness coordinator for Colorado Springs School District 11.

“Drivers need to be aware of school zones,” warned Stull. “They need to slow down and have patience. You’ve got children crossing the street.”

Colorado Springs has 88 designated 20-mph school zones. Typical violations result in a hefty penalty, with doubled fines and mandatory court appearances.

The city code calls for a $50 fine and a point on a Colorado driver’s license for driving 5 mph above the speed limit in school zones. The fine increases $10 for each mph above the limit.

When a driver exceeds 10 mph over the limit, it adds four points to a driver’s license. That’s one-third of the way to losing a license. Colorado drivers 21 and older can have 12 points worth of violations in a year or 18 points over two years.

At a speed of 20 mph, the probability of killing a child under the age of 14 on impact is only 1%. Double that speed to 40 mph, and the probability jumps to 16%. At 20 mph, the stopping distance for the average vehicle and a driver with an average reaction time is about 60 feet.

“In 2018, the CSPD wrote 2,544 citations for speeding in school zones,” police spokeswoman Natashia Kerr said. “Regardless if one district has more school zone citations than the others, we want to encourage everyone to drive safely — especially through school zones.”

About 25,000 children are injured every year in school-zone accidents, reports the Transportation Research Board.

At least 100 children are killed annually in collisions while walking to or from school, statistics show.

A 2016 study reported that 1 in 4 high school students and 1 in 6 middle school students are distracted, usually with headphones, while walking.

More children are injured by cars in September than in any other month, according to American Medical Response, the city’s ambulance service, which recommends commuters choose a route without a school zone if they don’t drop off children at schools.

Multimedia Journalist

Liz is a multimedia journalist with a specific interest in environment and outdoor recreation. She watches way too much Star Trek and is working toward her rescue scuba divers certification. Liz joined the Gazette staff in 2019.

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