Put Safety First as Children Start School
While older children may look forward to seeing friends, making new acquaintances and finding out about their teachers for the year, younger children can experience some anxiety about leaving home and venturing out into unfamiliar surroundings.
With all of these things on their young minds, children are apt to put safety last, leaving themselves open to the snares of accidents and injuries from traffic. Parents have the responsibility to teach children to keep safety in mind.
Teenagers Most Likely to Be Struck by Car
Did you know that 61 children nationwide are hit by cars every day usually just before and after school hours, according to SafeKids.org. The highest number of accidents occurs in September.
The SafeKids.org study also teenagers are more likely to be hit by a car than younger children. Forty-eight percent of the 490 pedestrians 19 and younger who were killed by motor vehicle collisions in 2012 were 15 to 19 years old.
By comparison, 20 years ago, youngsters from 5 to 9 were the highest-risk group for being hit by a car while walking.
Tips to Prevent Students from Being Injured
With alarming numbers of children becoming attached to cell phones and other electronic devices, the National Safety Council encourages parents to give children these year-round safety tips:
- Do not walk while texting or talking on a cell phone.
- If you must send a text, step to the side of others and stop on a sidewalk.
- Never cross a street while operating an electronic device.
- Avoid walking while wearing headphones.
- Always be aware of your surroundings.
- Use a sidewalk if available.
- If walking on the street, always face oncoming traffic.
- Before crossing streets, look left, right and left again.
- Cross at crosswalks only.
Planning the Safest Route to School
For younger children, walking to school is a major step in growing up. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests parents go by these rules if their children plan to walk to school.
- Ensure the student takes a safe route with trained adult crossing guards at all intersections.
- Know the children that your child will walk with each day, and if you live in a neighborhood with heavy traffic, set up a “walking school bus” accompanied by a designated adult.
- Know your child’s pedestrian skills and determine whether they are ready to walk to school without supervision.
- Early in the year, walk with children to make sure they know the route and how to cross streets safely.
- Make sure they wear bright clothing so motorists can see them.
Biking to School
If your child plans to ride a bicycle to school this year, make sure he or she has mastered the skills to ride safely and avoid traffic. Map out a route with the least traffic and make sure the child sticks to this all year long.
The American Academy of Pediatrics urges children to follow these basic rules for bicycling:
- Always ride with a helmet, even if the ride is a short distance.
- Ride on the right side of the road, using the same flow as vehicle traffic.
- Use hand signals to let motorists know your next move.
- Follow traffic lights and always stop at stop signs.
- Increase your visibility by wearing bright clothing. After dark, make sure your clothing is white or light-colored and that your bicycle has appropriate lights and reflectors.
- Know and follow the “rules of the road.”
About 25 million children ride buses to and from school each day, according to the National Safety Council. Buses are considered safe, with flashing lights, giant mirrors for drivers, high seat backs and their bright yellow color.
They cause only 1 percent of student fatalities during school travel. Yet safety precautions when boarding, riding and getting off buses are important. The council’s most recent annual report found 130 people were killed in accidents related to school buses in 2013. Four of those victims were bus passengers, 22 were pedestrians, and 95 were riding in other vehicles.
The National Safety Traffic Safety Administration reports roughly eight school-age children are killed every year while walking near school vehicles.
Boarding the Bus
- While waiting for the bus, don’t roughhouse with other children.
- Don’t stray into the street, alleys or private property.
- Line up out of the street as the bus arrives.
- Wait until the vehicle stops and the door opens before walking toward the bus.
- Use the bus handrail.
Good Bus Behavior
- Don’t distract to the driver.
- Remain in your seat.
- Keep head, arms and hands inside windows.
- Don’t put books and bags in aisles.
- Gather belongings before arriving at your bus stop.
- Wait until the bus stops completely before standing up to get off.
Getting Off the Bus
- Always use the handrail when exiting.
- If crossing the street in front of the bus, walk 10 feet ahead and make sure you can see the driver.
- Check to see if the driver sees you and wait for a signal from the driver before crossing.
- After the driver’s signal, look left, right and left, and while crossing check for changes in the traffic.
- If your vision is blocked, move to an area where you can see to cross safely.
- Always avoid the rear wheels of buses.
Backpack common sense
Sometimes, children can be loaded down with assignments, and they may come home with heavy backpacks.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says follow these rules:
- Select backpacks with padded shoulder straps and a padded back.
- Make the bag as light as possible, using all compartments and putting heavy items near the center of the child’s back. The bag should not weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of your child’s weight.
- Require the child to wear both shoulder straps. Strapping a bag over only one shoulder can strain the muscles.
- If your child’s bag seems too heavy each day, ask the school if it is OK to use a rolling backpack. However, consider these will have to be lifted up stairs and might be too large to fit in a locker.
There is a lot to consider at the start of the school year. Parental oversight can lead to a safe school year and good progress in the classroom.
If your child is injured in an accident this year because of someone else’s negligence in Oklahoma, contact an attorney experienced in handling cases related to school safety. You’ll need someone to guide you through the legal process to make sure you are fairly compensated.
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