Safe Kids Kansas reminds parents to take time out to teach and review safety guidelines with their kids to get them back to school safely. “Whether it’s their first day of kindergarten, or they are returning after summer vacation, with this change in routine it’s important to review safety tips together. Don’t assume your child will intuitively know the right steps to take to be safe,” says Cherie Sage, state director for Safe Kids Kansas.
School Bus Safety
“School buses are, by far, the safest way for kids of all ages to get to and from school,” Sage says. School buses are designed with safety features different than regular passenger vehicles. They are large and highly visible, and the padded, high-backed seats on school buses are close together to create protective compartments, like egg cartons. Sage suggests you explain this to your child so they understand why on a school bus they may not be buckling up with seat belts. “It’s a different form of protection, but it can send a mixed message to kids when they realize they’re not buckling up in a vehicle.” Nationally, though, there is momentum toward requiring seat belts on school buses in the future. There are studies and changes afoot that suggest a future where seat belts will be required equipment on school buses.
More significant dangers lie outside the school bus. “More children are killed or injured crossing the street at bus stops than riding on a school bus,” says Sage. “Teach your children about the 10-foot danger zone around the school bus, where the driver can’t see children on the ground.” Young children should take eight giant steps away from the bus to be sure the bus driver can see them. Older kids should look to the bus driver for an “OK” sign before crossing.
Safe Kids Kansas also reminds drivers to obey state laws that prohibit passing a stopped school bus.
Children should also be reminded to:
• Arrive at the stop at least five minutes before the bus arrives.
• Stay out of the street and avoid horseplay.
• Ask the bus driver for help if anything is dropped while entering or exiting the bus, or if they spot something under the bus, such as a pet.
Walking to School
Safe Kids Kansas recommends that children under 10 never cross the street alone. Make sure you follow these additional safety guidelines:
• Choose the safest route and walk it with children. Look for the most direct route with the fewest street crossings. Children should take the same route every day and avoid shortcuts.
• Teach children to recognize and obey all traffic signals and markings.
• Make sure children look in all directions before crossing the street. Teach them to always stop at the curb, and to look left, right and left again for traffic before and while crossing the street. If a vehicle is approaching, wave and make eye contact with the driver before crossing the street.
• Teach children to cross the street at a corner or crosswalk, never from between parked cars or from behind bushes or shrubs.
• Warn children to be extra alert in bad weather. Visibility might be poor and motorists might not be able to see them or stop quickly.
• Be a good role model. Children need you to not only tell them, but also show them how to be safe pedestrians. Express to older kids in your home or neighborhood how important it is to be good role models.
Riding Bikes to School
Whether out of necessity or for fun, many children choose to ride their bikes to school. Unfortunately, bicycles are the most common sport/recreational product involved in injuries among five to 14-year olds.
To keep children safe, Safe Kids Kansas offers these safety tips for children riding bicycles to school:
• Wear bike helmets at all times when bicycling. In Kansas, traumatic brain injury occurs in 45 percent of the children hospitalized for bicycle crash injuries. Helmets could prevent an estimated 75 percent of fatal head injuries and up to 45,000 head injuries to children who ride bikes each year in the United States. Purchase a bike helmet that meets U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission safety standards for each child and make sure that it is worn correctly every time the child rides his or her bike.
• Follow the rules of the road. Ride on the right side of the road, with traffic, not against traffic; use appropriate hand signals; respect traffic signals; stop at all intersections, marked and unmarked; and stop and look left, right and left again before entering or crossing the street.
• Never let children ride on the road without direct adult supervision until age 10, and have demonstrated that they always follow the rules. Model safe behaviors and teach children the rules of the road. Children are more likely to learn safe road crossing behaviors from adults.
• Plan a safe cycling route with children and ride it with them. A safe cycling route to school may not be the same as a safe walking route.
• Do not ride at night. Children should not be allowed to ride after dark, and should wear retro-reflective clothing when biking at dawn, dusk, or during inclement weather.
• Make sure schools provide cyclists with “safe areas.” Bike racks should be placed in areas where there are few motor vehicles and pedestrians. Avoid drop-off and pick-up zones in school parking lots.
Driving Children to School
• Always use child safety seats, booster seats, and safety belts correctly every time your children ride. Kids are required by Kansas law to be in a car seat or booster seat until they are at least eight years old, 80 pounds, or 4’ 9” tall. Children under age 13 should always ride in the back seat whenever possible. For more information, visit www.kansasboosterseat.org.
• Drop off children in a safe location so that they do not have to cross the street. Make sure they enter and leave the car on the curb side.
• Arrange to pick up children at a safe spot away from the congestion of traffic around the school.
For more information about back to school safety, call 785-296-1223 or visit www.usa.safekids.org.