Health & Safety

August 10, 2012

Back-to-school: watch out for kids on roads

by Senior Airman C.J. HATCH
56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Every August thousands of children ages 5 to 18 take to the streets early morning and afternoon.

School is back in session which means 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 exodus of children returning to school. They have been off all summer and haven’t had to worry much about safety.”

It’s not just children, but adults as well need to be aware and take safety precautions during this time.

“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.”

Also back on the roads are school busses.

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.

It’s not in the bus that most children are injured during the year; it’s after they 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 said. “It is necessary to know the proper laws and procedures for sharing the road safely with school buses.”
 
The NSC puts out the following rules each year in hope 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 that they are preparing to stop to load or unload children. Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign signals to motorists that the bus is stopped and children are getting on or off the bus.
  • All states require that traffic in both directions 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. Stop your car 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 practice walking to school with children.

For children that live close but not close enough to walk, riding a bike is an option.

“Ensure children always wear a helmet when riding a bike,” the NSC 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 recommends to parents two additional things to help keep children safe during the school year.

“Many school related injuries are completely preventable,” the NSC said. “Two major ones are backpack injuries and playground injuries.”
 
Backpack safety

  • Choose a backpack with an agronomical 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.

 
Playground safety

  • Encourage children to use playgrounds with soft surfaces. Avoid playgrounds on concrete.
  • Children under 4 should not use climbing equipment and should be closely watched.

 




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