NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — Classroom doors continue to open across the state following the summer break, and AAA reminds Tennesseans to stay alert in and around school zones.

A survey conducted by AAA found that 34% of Tennessee drivers admit to speeding in active school zones, and 26% admitted that they have used a cell phone while driving through these zones.

“When driving through a school zone, it’s extremely important that you lower your speed and raise your awareness to ensure you can respond to any potential hazards on the roadway,” said AAA’s Stephanie Milani. “Remember, in Tennessee, it is illegal to use your handheld mobile device while driving through an active school zone.”

Motorists are required to stop when approaching a school bus that is stopped with its red lights and STOP arms extended. The only exception is on a divided highway with a raised divider.

A recently enacted Tennessee law increases the maximum fine from $50 to $200 for first-time violators caught by school bus cameras not stopping when the school bus is loading and unloading children.

AAA provided the following tips for drivers:

  • Slow down — Speed limits in school zones are reduced for a reason, AAA stressed. A pedestrian hit by a vehicle traveling 25 mph is almost two-thirds less likely to be killed compared to a pedestrian hit by a car traveling 35 mph.
  • Come to a complete stop — More than one-third of drivers roll through stop signs in school zones or neighborhoods.
  • Eliminate distractions — Taking your eyes off the road for two seconds doubles your chances of crashes.
  • Share the road with bicyclists — Slow down and allow at least 3 feet of passing distances between your vehicle and a bicyclist.
  • Talk to your teen — Car crashes are the leading cause of teen deaths in the U.S. Nearly 25% of fatal crashes involving a teen driver happens after school hours.

AAA provided the following tips for students who walk:

  • Pay attention at all times — Avoid texting or wearing headphones so you can detect nearby traffic.
  • Use sidewalks when available — If they aren’t available, walk against the direction of traffic.
  • Make yourself easy to be seen — Wear reflective, bright clothing.

Students who bike:

  • Wear a helmet and neon clothing
  • Ride in the same direction as traffic and stay as far right as possible
  • Use bike lanes when available
  • Do not wear headphones
  • Cross the street at intersections

Students at the bus stop:

  • Arrive at least five minutes before bus is scheduled to arrive
  • Stay five steps away from the curb and road
  • Be alert and remove headphones
  • Wait until the bus comes to a complete stop