Study: Oklahoma is one of the most dangerous states for distracted driving in school zones


    (KOKH/FILE)

    New data ranks Oklahoma as one of the most dangerous states for distracted driving in school zones. And the company behind the data, Zendrive, says it's so specific it can track unsafe driving behaviors down to the school.

    The technique uses your smartphone data to track distracted and unsafe driving behavior in school zones, such as texting or accelerating and slamming on your brakes. Each state, county and school then gets an A through F grade. Oklahoma overall got a D-plus. Oklahoma County failed and Tulsa County received a D-minus.

    According to the Transportation Research Board, more than 100 children are killed every year while walking to and from school. About 25,000 are injured. Noah Budnick says Zendrive aims to change that.

    "We measured aggressive driving, distracted driving within three quarters of a mile around those schools" Budnick said.

    The company looked at data from 75 thousand schools in the US and created an interactive map where you can find your child's school and it's distracted driving grade. According to the data three schools in Oklahoma County got Fs. They are: Cheyenne Middle School and Russell Dougherty Elementary in Edmond and Kirkland Elementary in Oklahoma City, part of the Putnam City school district. The safest school zone according to Zendrive is St. Mary's Episcopal in Oklahoma City. The study found that 88 percent of Americans use their phones behind the wheel. And one in three drivers practices unsafe behavior in school zones. The study also found that the afternoon pickup time of 4-5 p.m. is 40 percent more dangerous than the morning drop off time of 7-10 a.m.

    Budnick says Zendrive's data gathering technique is so specific it can even differentiate between drivers and passengers.

    "Our phone not only have GPS but they have accelerometers and gyroscopes so when you are holding your phone and you're playing with it and make the picture spin around, those sensors can also detect say what side of the car you get out of," Budnick said.

    Oklahoma City Police Department MSgt. Gary Knight agrees that distracted driving is a problem in our state.

    "It's always important to pay attention to the roadway but particularly in school zones where our children are crossing the roadway and many of them are gathering...where they are getting off," Knight said.

    A problem that can be particularly dangerous, even deadly in school zones. Knight says there's a reason why you see signs with lights, speed bumps and low speed limits in school zones.

    "In school zones, obviously those speed limits aren't that high but you're still going fast enough that if you divert your attention from the roadway that can certainly end up in a very tragic situation," Knight said.

    Budnick says he hopes the Zendrive study will start a conversation with school traffic officials and law enforcement. Maybe even generate parent volunteers to walk kids to and from school.

    "Parents take turns walking groups of kids to school which is great cause you get exercise," Budnick said.

    To check out what grade your child's school received, click on this link.

    Edmond Public Schools issued the following statement on the study:

    The results of the Zendrive study underscore the importance of understanding the risks associated with using a smart phone while driving...especially while in a school zone. We hope motorists will familiarize themselves with the Zendrive results and monitor their driving habits to help ensure that the roads near our schools remain safe and accident free.

    Putnam City Public Schools issued the following statement on the study:

    Schools can’t control where the school is located or the distraction level of drivers passing by the building. What they can do is make things as safe as possible on school campuses during the most congested times, which is when students are arriving or leaving for the day. That’s why each school has well thought out and well-communicated safety procedures tailored to their setting. Keeping students safe is the top priority.

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