Walker bill aims at school safety

Legislation filed by a Tulsa lawmaker would increase school safety by requiring the use of hazard lights in school zones.

According to the Transportation Research Board, more than 100 children are killed and nearly 25,000 injured every year while walking to and from school. Nearly half of those children are ages 5-7.

House Bill 2470, by state Rep. Ken Walker, requires drivers to “engage the motor vehicle’s vehicular hazard warning lamps” upon approaching the school zone and to keep them engaged until exiting the school zone.

“The idea is simple – when you see hazard lights, it makes you sit up and pay more attention,” said Walker, R-Tulsa. “Just this morning, a middle school student in Jenks was hit by an SUV. Going through the past decade, I found that these types of accidents occur regularly. I think more could be done to prevent them.”

Although the Jenks boy was not hit within a school zone, his case and others show how frequently children are hit by vehicles, Walker said. In 2013, 4-year-old Emmalee Halstead was hit and killed by a car at Park Elementary School in Tulsa in the parking lot. In 2014, a 5-year-old boy was hit during early morning traffic in Tulsa on the way to Mitchell Elementary School. In 2015, a 9-year-old boy was injured by a car at Central Elementary School in Yukon.

“This is basically an annual problem, even if it doesn’t always occur in a school zone,” Walker said. “It’s human nature that in the morning rush, some drivers are going to be distracted. Getting their attention with hazard lights is a sure-fire way to increase their attention. Parents should be able to drop off and pick up their kids without worrying about these types of accidents.”