LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. – Every August, thousands of children ages 5 to 18 begin once again using the streets early morning and afternoon.
School is back in session, which means those morning and afternoon hours will be filled with school busses, teenage drivers and a lot of safety concerns.
“This time can be exciting for children,” said Ben Bruce, 56th Fighter Wing Ground Safety manager. “There is a mass migration of children returning to school. They’ve been off all summer and are now facing new challenges, some of which will be safety-related.
“Parent drivers and children all need to be more aware,” Bruce said. “Children need to look for cars, drivers need to watch for children and parents need to make sure their children know the safety rules.”
School buses are also back on the roads. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported riding in a bus is the safest way to get to school.
“Riding a bus to school is 13 times safer than riding in a passenger vehicle and 10 times safer than walking to school,” the NHTSA said in a report.
The National Safety Council reports that most injuries occur after students leave the bus.
“Most of the children who lose their lives in bus-related crashes are pedestrians ages 4 to 7 who are hit by the bus or by motorists illegally passing a stopped school bus,” the NSC report said. “It is necessary to know the proper laws and procedures for sharing the road safely with school buses.”
The NSC annually puts out the following rules in hopes of preventing bus-related accidents.
It is illegal in any state to pass a school bus that is stopped to load or unload children.
School buses use yellow flashing lights to alert motorists they are preparing to stop to load or unload children. Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign signals to motorists the bus is stopped and children are getting on or off the bus.
All states require traffic in both directions must stop on undivided roadways when students are entering or exiting a school bus.
While state laws vary on what is required on a divided roadway, in all cases, traffic behind the school bus, traveling in the same direction, must stop.
The area 10 feet around a school bus is where children are in the most danger of being hit. Motorists must stop far enough from the bus to allow children the necessary space to safely enter and exit the bus.
Be alert. Children are unpredictable. Children walking to or from the bus are usually very comfortable with the surroundings. This makes them more likely to take risks, ignore hazards or fail to look both ways when crossing the street.
Never pass a school bus on the right. It is illegal and could have tragic consequences.
Responsibility for being safe is not just the job of adults. Children need to know the safety rules of going to school as well.
For children walking to school, the NSC recommends parents establish rules and review them often. The plan should include looking both ways before crossing streets, walking on sidewalks and never darting in front of cars. Parents should also practice walking to school with children.
Children who live close to school but not close enough to walk can consider riding a bike as an option.
“Ensure children always wear a helmet when riding a bike,” the NSC website said. “Teach children the rules of the road; ride on the right side and in single file, and come to a complete stop before crossing a street.”
Lastly, the NSC includes two tips to help keep children safe during the school year.
“Many school-related injuries are completely preventable,” the NSC website said. “Two major ones are backpack injuries and playground injuries.”
For backpack safety they recommend, choosing a backpack with an ergonomical design that enhances safety and comfort. Avoid overstuffing a backpack; it should weigh no more than 10 to 20 percent of the child’s body weight. Have children use both straps when wearing a backpack to evenly distribute the weight.
When looking for a playground, avoid those with hard surfaces. Children under 4 years old should not use climbing equipment and parents should closely watch over children.