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FOR RELEASE: August 3, 2000
CONTACT: Dick Gunn

Get Back To School Safely

As the carefree days of summer give way to the hectic back-to-school season, parents and caregivers should take time out to teach and review important safety guidelines with children. "As fall approaches and children prepare to return to school, it's important for parents and children to go over safety tips together," says Martha Collar, coordinator of the Oklahoma SAFE KIDS Coalition, a program of the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Waiting for the Bus

About 23.5 million students ride school buses daily. Although it is one of the safest ways to travel to and from school, injuries do occur. In 1998, 21 children ages 14 and under were killed in school bus-related traffic crashes. An estimated 6,000 children were injured in school bus-related incidents. More than half of the children killed were pedestrians. Many injuries occur when children are boarding or exiting the bus.

A child's behavior at the bus stop is a very important aspect of school bus safety. Children should remember these safety tips while waiting for the bus:

  • Arrive at the stop at least five minutes before the bus arrives.
  • Stay out of the street and avoid horseplay.
  • 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.

Boarding and Leaving the Bus

When boarding or leaving the bus, children should always:

  • Walk in a single file line.
  • Use the handrail to avoid falls.
  • Wait until the bus comes to a complete stop before exiting.
  • Exit from the front of the bus.
  • Remove loose drawstrings or ties on jackets and sweatshirts, and replace with Velcro, snaps or buttons. Loose drawstrings or book bags can get caught on bus handrails.
  • Ask the bus driver for help if anything is dropped while entering or exiting the bus.

On the Bus

While on the bus, children should observe the following safety rules:

  • Remain seated at all times and keep the aisles clear.
  • Do not throw objects.
  • Do not shout or distract the driver unnecessarily.
  • Keep heads and hands inside the bus at all times.

Walking to School

Nationwide, pedestrian injuries are the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages 5 to 14. SAFE KIDS recommends that children under 10 never cross the street alone. Choose the safest route and walk it with children. Look for the direct route with the fewest street crossings. Walk the route with the children until they demonstrate traffic safety awareness. They should take the same route every day and avoid short cuts.

  • Teach children to recognize and obey all traffic signals and markings. A flashing "walk" sign is not an automatic "go" signal. It 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 for traffic 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 the majority of the child pedestrian fatalities.
  • Teach children to cross the street at a corner or a crosswalk. Make sure children allow plenty of time to cross. Teach them to walk, not run across intersections. Tell children to listen to adult crossing guards or safety patrols at monitored intersections.
  • 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.
  • Demonstrate proper pedestrian safety by being a good role model.
  • Parents, caregivers, and older peers should set good examples for younger children.

Riding Bikes to School

Whether out of necessity or for fun, many children choose to ride their bikes to school. Unfortunately, bicycles are associated with more childhood injuries than any other consumer product except the automobile.

  • Wear bike helmets at all times when bicycling. Head injuries account for more than 60 percent of bicycle-related deaths, more than two-thirds of bicycle-related hospital admissions and about one-third of hospital emergency room visits for bicycling injuries. Bike helmets have been shown to reduce the risk of head injury by as much as 85 percent and the risk of brain injury by as much as 88 percent. 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 every time the child rides his or her bike.
  • 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.
  • 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

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages 14 and under. Seventy-five percent of motor vehicle crashes occur within 25 miles of home, and 60 percent of crashes occur on roads with posted speed limits of 40 mph or less.

  • Always use child safety seats and safety belts correctly every time you and your children ride. Remain buckled up until exiting the vehicle.
  • Children who have outgrown a convertible seat should graduate to a booster until they are 8 years old or about 80 lbs.
  • 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.
  • If children under five feet tall must ride in front with an air bag, make sure they are properly restrained and the seat is moved back as far as possible. Ideally, an air bag cut-off switch should be installed.

Following these important safety guidelines and reviewing them every year with your children can help keep the “back to school season” a safe one.


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