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FOR RELEASE: August 5, 2003
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Get Back To School Safely

Preparations for back-to-school are underway and parents and caregivers are reminded to slow down and review a few safety tips with their children. The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) School Health Program suggests the following precautions:

General Safety

  • Be sure your child knows his or her home phone number and address, your work number, the number of another trusted adult and how to use 911 for emergencies.
  • Make sure your child has enough change to make a phone call or carries a telephone calling card.
  • Teach your child never to talk to strangers or accept rides or gifts from strangers. Remember a stranger is anyone you or your child doesn’t know well or trust.
  • If your child is home alone for a few hours after school, set up rules for locking doors and windows, answering the door or telephone.
  • Make sure your child checks in with you or a neighbor immediately after school.
  • Set rules for inviting friends over and for going to a friend’s home when no adult is home to supervise.

Bus Safety

  • Stay away from the bus until it comes to a compete stop and the driver signals you to enter. Stay away from the rear wheels of the bus at all times.
  • Always wait for parents on the same side of the street as the school bus loading/unloading zone.
  • Cross the street at least 10 feet (or 10 giant steps) in front of the bus to avoid the driver’s blind spot. Do not cross until the bus driver signals that it is safe for you to begin walking.
  • Use the handrail to enter and exit the bus to avoid falls.
  • Wait until the bus comes to a complete stop before exiting.
  • Exit from the front of the bus.
  • Ask the bus driver for help if anything is dropped while entering or exiting the bus.
  • To make certain loose drawstrings or book bags don’t get caught on bus handrails, parents should remove loose drawstrings or ties on jackets and sweatshirts, and replace with Velcro, snaps or buttons.
  • While on the bus, children should not throw objects, shout or distract the driver unnecessarily. Keep heads and hands inside the bus and remain seated at all times.

Walking to School

  • Children under age 10 should never cross the street alone.
  • Parents should choose the safest and most direct route with fewest street crossings then walk it with their children until the children can show that they learned traffic safety rules. Remind children to take the same route every day and avoid short cuts or other places where there are not many people around.
  • Walk to and from school with a friend or others and wear reflective material to be more visible to street traffic.
  • Teach children to recognize and obey all traffic signals and markings. A flashing "walk" sign means a pedestrian has permission to cross, but must stop and look both ways for cars.
  • Make sure children look in all directions before crossing the street. Teach them to stop at the curb or edge of the road, and look left, right, and left again before and while crossing the street.
  • Teach children not to enter the street from between parked cars or from behind bushes or shrubs. Darting into the street accounts for most of the child pedestrian fatalities.
  • Teach children to cross the street at a corner or a crosswalk and allow plenty of time to cross.
  • Teach them to walk, not run across intersections and listen to crossing guards.
  • Warn children to be extra alert in bad weather because motorists’ visibility may be limited.

Biking to School

  • Wear bike helmets at all times when bicycling. Purchase a bike helmet that meets federal safety standards or those developed by ANSI, Snell or ASTM and make sure that it is worn correctly.
  • Follow the rules of the road. Children who ride bikes to school should be taught to follow traffic rules that apply to all vehicles. 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.
  • Walk your bike through intersections.

Driving Children to School

  • Always use child safety seats and safety belts correctly every time you and your children ride. Remain buckled up until exiting the vehicle.
  • Never put two children in one seat belt. Don’t transport more passengers than you have seat belts.
  • Never put loose or heavy objects in the passenger area of the car that could injure someone if you stopped suddenly or crashed.
  • Allow extra time in the driver's schedule to avoid driving too fast when late.
  • Arrange to drop off and pick up children at a safe spot away from the congestion of traffic around school. Make sure they enter and leave the car on the curbside.

“Take time to listen carefully to children’s fears and feelings about people or places that scare them or make them feel uneasy. Tell them to trust their instincts and take complaints about bullies and other concerns seriously, “ said State Health Commissioner Dr. Leslie Beitsch. “Following these important safety guidelines and reviewing them every year with your children can help make the school year a safe one.”

For additional safety information, contact the OSDH School Health Program at 405/271-4471.

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