Driver's Seat
Sept/Oct 2008 Issue

Drive cautiously as new school year begins

As children go back to school each fall, drivers should be aware that walking and biking near roads creates special risks for youngsters who are not always aware of the dangers prevalent only a few feet from the curb.

Indeed, about 20 percent of all children between ages 5 and 9 who die in traffic crashes are pedestrians, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Children are at increased risk because their smaller size makes them difficult to see and they are often unable to judge distances and vehicle speeds accurately so they misjudge whether it’s safe to cross the street.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety offers tips that will keep the children around you safer. For instance, if you see a ball (or a toy or a dog) come flying across a street, assume a child will be running after it. Slow down or stop so you can anticipate children entering the street suddenly.

Watch for kids darting out from between cars. With so many tall vans, trucks and SUVs on the road, it’s harder than ever to see children behind vehicles.

Remember the stop laws for stopped school buses and use extra caution around other vehicles carrying children. Children piling out of the family minivan or stepping off buses often run into the street without thinking.

Observe the speed limit in school zones, and take extra caution near ball fields, in residential neighborhoods and around shopping malls where children congregate.

Keep your children safe by making them wear helmets when riding bikes or skateboards, buckling them into appropriate child-restraint seats in cars and teaching them safety skills for pedestrians.

Always observe stop laws for school buses and use caution near schools.

Louisiana lawmakers tighten restrictions for teen drivers

To keep teenage drivers safe in Louisiana, new laws are requiring more time behind the wheel during the licensing phase and no time on the cell phone.

The Louisiana State Legislature recently approved changes to the Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program that will require more actual driving experience through driver education courses, either in high school or private driving schools. Effective Jan. 1, 2009, novice drivers will be required to spend at least eight hours behind the wheel in those driver education courses, up from six hours. The 30 hours of classroom training they need remains unchanged.

The revised law also clears up previous vague wording about the minimum age requirement to secure a learner’s permit, declaring flatly that the minimum age for any beginner driver is 15 years.
To graduate to the intermediate level, the applicant must be at least 16 years old and pass an on-road driving test. Under a new provision, the teen must provide a signed statement by a parent or guardian attesting that the teen has completed 35 hours of behind-the-wheel driving experience with a licensed adult driver.

Because distractions are a major cause of crashes among drivers, especially teens, lawmakers also took steps to eliminate the distractions caused by cell phones with two new laws that took effect in July.

Under the first law, all drivers are banned from reading or sending text messages, instant messages and e-mail. The first violation of the law is punishable by a fine of not more than $175 and up to $500 for subsequent violations. Fines can be doubled if violators are texting at the time of a crash.

For teens, the restrictions are more severe. Under the second new law, drivers who are 17 or younger cannot use cell phones while driving in addition to the ban on text messaging. However, teens are allowed to use cell phones in times of emergency or to report a crime. The ban does not apply to hands-free devices, citizens band radios, two-way communication devices or devices with push-to-talk functions.

Teens cannot be pulled over for using a cell phone but may be cited if stopped for a moving violation like speeding. The fine for a first offense is not more than $100, and subsequent violations are up to $250; fines also are doubled if the teen is involved in a crash.


VIN Etch can deter theft

As a theft deterrent, AAA will offer window etching of your vehicle’s VIN (vehicle identification number) this spring.

The cost is $30 for AAA members and $40 for non-members, including six etchings per car. AAA offers discounts on insurance for VIN Etching.

Call 1-800-AAA-ROAD ext. 6821 to make appointments at least 24 hours in advance of the below dates. Please have your VIN number handy when making reservations.

View VIN Etch dates and locations

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