It’s back-to-school time! If you’re a parent to a school-aged child, this is the ideal time to review safety rules with them, whether they ride their bike to school, walk, or take the bus.
Safety Tips for Walkers
Statistically, for every hour that passes, a teen pedestrian is killed or injured after being hit by a car in the United States. Three-quarters of teen pedestrian fatalities happen between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. Due to early high school start times, many teenagers are walking to school or to a bus stop during these dangerous early morning hours. Listening to music, talking on the phone, or texting are common distractions that can prevent teens from paying full attention to traffic.
Remind your walker to:
- Always be alert and on the defensive when walking; watch for drivers who might be speeding or not paying full attention.
- Always walk on sidewalks or paths. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far away from vehicles as possible.
- Be sure to cross streets at the corner, using traffic signals and crosswalks. Most pedestrian injuries happen mid-block or someplace other than intersections. Make eye contact with drivers before crossing in front of them.
- Watch out for cars that are turning, or cars that are backing up in parking lots and driveways.
Bike Safety Tips
If your child bikes to school, be sure he or she wears a helmet that meets national safety standards. They should have the right size helmet and wear it every time they bike, skate, or ride a scooter; all bike riders under age 16 are required by law to wear a helmet.
While helmets can reduce the risk of head injury by up to 85 percent, surprisingly only about 45 percent of children 14 and under wear their helmet the majority of the time. Letting your child pick out his or her own helmet will increase the chances that they will like and wear it.
Check that the helmet fits properly and that your child knows how to put it on correctly. A helmet should sit on top of the child’s head in a level position; it should not rock forward, backward, or side to side. The helmet straps must always be buckled, but not too tightly. It should be snug, but comfortable.
Additionally, be sure the bike is the right size for the child. When your child is sitting on the bike seat, their feet should be able to touch the ground. Ensure that reflectors are secure, mirrors are correctly adjusted, brakes work properly, and tires are properly inflated. Be sure they know to check for loose clothing that can get caught in bike chains or wheel spokes, which can cause a fall.
When riding at dusk or dawn, or in the evening, instruct them to use lights in addition to having reflectors. Headlights are not so much for the bicyclist to see where they are going but to make it easier for others to see them. It is also smart to have your child wear reflective clothing or accessories to improve bike visibility to motorists.
School Bus Safety Tips
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), riding in a school bus is the safest way for a child to travel to and from school. However, the “danger zone” where they approach or leave the bus poses the greatest risk for injury or fatality.
More school-age pedestrians are killed during the hour before and after school than any other time of day, according to the NHTSA. Although drivers are required by law to stop for a school bus when it's loading or unloading passengers, they often do not. Children should not expect drivers to stop, and instead should always stay on their guard.
Be sure your bus-rider knows to:
- Stay far back away from the road while waiting for the bus and to allow the bus to come to a complete stop before approaching it.
- Always hold the handrail when boarding and exiting the bus.
- Find a seat quickly and remain seated while the bus in in motion.
- Keep voices down, and avoid loud noises that could distract the driver.
- Keep aisles clear of books and bags.
- If you have to cross in front of the bus after exiting, walk at least 10 feet ahead. Be sure that you can see the driver and the driver can you; wait for a signal from the driver before crossing. When the driver signals, look left, right, then left again, then walk across the road, keeping an eye out for sudden traffic changes.
Wishing you all a safe and happy school year!
SMH Trauma Program Coordinator Leeann Putney has been a registered nurse with the hospital for 28 years. Prior to joining the trauma team in 2015, she served as a critical care nurse, nurse educator, and nursing Magnet Program co-lead. She received her Master of Science degree in Nursing from the University of South Florida, and lives in Sarasota with her husband and two active, teenage sons.