Parents rejoice: Fall is finally just around the corner. This means shorter days, near-perfect temperatures, and, most importantly, the start of a new school year. But, before busting a victory dance move, it’s time to teach the safety dance. As the kiddos march out the door for school there is only one priority: making sure their school travel is safe.
Millions of children walk to and from school. And, this isn’t just for those who walk for their school travel. Whether they’re walking to the bus stop, in the parking lot, or the entire way, all kids are a pedestrian at some point during the school day. And, it takes a village—or a community—to guarantee a safe and secure journey to and from school.
Walk this Way
According to experts, the majority of fatal crashes for young pedestrians occur between 7 to 8 a.m. and 3 and 4 p.m. Luckily, there are a few simple tips all community members can follow to ensure a safer walk for children.
- Take five minutes to go over important resources, including online maps and infographics. Teach your child how to safely cross the street, and it’s a great reminder for parents, too.
- Make sure the child’s school travel is accompanied by a parent, guardian, older sibling or group. This will ensure they know how to get there safely. If you can’t make it on a certain day, arrange for the kids to walk to school with a friend or classmates.
- The age-old saying “look both ways before crossing the street” has stood the test of time for a reason. When children walk to school, make sure they only cross at a corner, in a crosswalk or at an intersection with a pedestrian “walk” sign.
- Community members also play a key role in ensuring a child’s safety. Make sure to remain aware of high-risk school zones. These include areas in need of a crosswalk, lower speed limits, sign visibility, crossing guards, traffic lights and other necessary means to lessen the risks of school travel.
A Smooth Bus Ride
For about 25 million students nationwide, the school travel begins and ends at a designated bus stop. School buses are the safest method of school travel. However, children also need to do their part to stay alert and aware of their surroundings to prevent injury. Children should always following safety rules for getting on and off the bus, and for exercising good behavior while riding. Here are a few tips to ensure your child boards and exits the bus correctly:
- When waiting for the bus, stay away from traffic and avoid roughhousing or other behavior that can lead to carelessness.
- Do not stray onto the street, alleys or private property.
- Line up away from the street or road as the bus approaches.
- Wait until the bus has stopped and the door opens before approaching the bus. Use the handrail when boarding.
- When it’s time to exit, make sure your child uses the handrails.
- If crossing in front of the bus, walk at least 10 feet ahead.
- Make sure the driver can see you. Wait for a signal from the driver before crossing. When the driver signals, look left, right, then left again.
- Walk across the road and keep an eye out for sudden traffic changes. If your vision is blocked, move to an area where you can see other drivers and they can see you.
- Do not cross the center line of the road until the driver signals it is safely.
Although drivers are required by law to stop for a school bus, they often don’t. Children should not rely on them to do so.
Sharing the Road
Whether as a passerby, parent or community member, it is important to remember you are the number-one influence on keeping these children safe. Stay completely focused on the road and put your cell phone away when in traffic. Learn about driving safely and find out the laws on distracted driving in your state.
Motorists should know what the yellow and red bus signals mean. Yellow flashing lights indicate the bus is getting ready to stop. Motorists should slow down and be prepared to stop.
Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign indicate the bus is stopped and children are getting on or off. Drivers must and wait until the lights go off, the sign is back in place and the bus is moving.
Drivers have a lot to pay attention to in school zones, too. A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control revealed the most common form of student travel is the family car. That translates into a lot of cars in school zones at the same time.
If children ride in a car to get to school, they should always wear a seat belt. Younger children should use car seats or booster seats until the lap-shoulder belt fits properly. The should ride in the back seat until they are at least age 13 years or older.
If a teenager is going to drive to school, parents should mandate that they use seat belts. Drivers should not use their cell phone to text or make calls, and should avoid eating or drinking while driving.
Safe and Sound
Of course, you don’t have to be a parent or guardian to ensure children get to and from school safely. As a community member, you can do your part to learn about pedestrian safety.
A few measures could include simply educating parents and students about the discussed walking and driving habits. Or, set and enforce speed limits in zones at no more than 20 miles per hour. You can even work with school officials and elected officials to take action regarding drop-off and pick-up of students. If you have any additional tips to add to this, feel free to reach out! We would love to hear from you in the comment section below.