The school year begins in just a matter of days, which means its time for many to start taking student and school safety into account again, and for some to start thinking about it for the first time.
For those who need a refresher and those who are new to sending children to school, the American Red Cross and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has listed tips to make this school season a safe one.
GETTING TO SCHOOL SAFEL
- If your student rides a bus to school, they should plan to get to their bus stop early and stand away from the curb while waiting for the bus to arrive.
- Students should board the bus only after it has come to a complete stop and the driver or attendant has instructed them to get on. They should only board their bus, never an alternate one.
- All students should stay in clear view of the bus driver and never walk behind the bus.
- Cross the street at the corner, obeying traffic signals and staying in the crosswalk.
- Never dart out into the street or cross between parked cars.
- 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 (typically for children ages 8-12 and over 4’9”), and ride in the back seat until they are at least 13 years old.
- 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 avoid eating or drinking while driving.
- Some students ride their bike to school. They should always wear a helmet and ride on the right in the same direction as the traffic is going.
- When children are walking to school, they should only cross the street at an intersection, and use a route along which the school has placed crossing guards.
- Parents should walk young children to school, along with children taking new routes or attending new schools, at least for the first week to ensure they know how to get there safely. Arrange for the kids to walk to school with a friend or classmate.
SCHOOL IN SESSION, SLOW DOWN!
Drivers should be aware that children are out walking or biking to school and slow down, especially in residential areas and school zones. Motorists should know what the yellow and red bus signals mean. Yellow flashing lights indicate the bus is getting ready to stop and 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.
Motorists must stop when they are behind a bus, meeting the bus or approaching an intersection where a bus is stopped. Motorists following or traveling alongside a school bus must also stop until the red lights have stopped flashing, the stop arm is withdrawn, and all children have reached safety. This includes two and four-lane highways. If physical barriers such as grassy medians, guide rails or concrete median barriers separate oncoming traffic from the bus, motorists in the opposing lanes may proceed without stopping. Do not proceed until all the children have reached a place of safety.
KEEP LITTLE ONES SAFE
- Keeping all students safe is the primary concern for everyone, but there are special steps for parents of younger kids and those going to school for the first time:
- Make sure the child knows their phone number, address, how to get in touch with their parents at work, how to get in touch with another trusted adult and how to dial 9-1-1.
- Teach children not to talk to strangers or accept rides from someone they don’t know.
PREPARE FOR EMERGENCIES
Know what the emergency plan is at your child’s school in case a disaster or an unforeseen event occurs. Develop a family emergency plan so everyone will know who to contact and where to go if something happens while children are at school and parents are at work. Details are available at redcross.org/prepare.
The Red Cross First Aid App provides instant access to information on handling the most common first aid emergencies whether it be before, during or after school. Download the app for free by searching for ‘American Red Cross’ in your app store or at redcross.org/apps. Learn and practice First Aid and CPR/AED skills by taking a course (redcross.org/takeaclass) so you can help save a life.
FROM THE NTHSA
TALK BUS SAFETY WITH YOUR CHILDREN
School buses are the safest way for children to travel to and from school. Your child should arrive at the bus stop at least 5 minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive. Teach them to play it SAFE:
- Stay five steps away from the curb.
- Always wait until the bus comes to a complete stop and the bus driver tells you to board.
- Face forward after finding a seat on the bus.
- Exit the bus when it stops and look left-right-left for cars before crossing a street.
In addition to practicing and modeling safe behaviors with your children, ask your school principal if there is a Safe Routes to School program or other school-based safety committees and initiatives you can get involved in.
WATCH THE ROAD
Walking to school is great exercise, but children under 10 years old should be accompanied by an adult or with someone who will make sure they walk safely. If you’re walking:
- Use the sidewalk whenever possible, and if there isn’t a sidewalk, walk on the edge of the street facing traffic.
- Whenever they are available, use marked crosswalks to cross the street, and look left-right-left for vehicles or bikes before crossing.
- Make sure you never play, push or shove others when you walk around traffic.
- Everyone should watch the road, not their phones.
KNOW THE RULES OF THE ROAD
Riding your bike can be a fun and quick way to get to school. Be sure to do these simple things to keep your bike ride safe:
- Always wear a correctly fitted helmet, and securely fasten the chin strap.
- Ride in the same direction as traffic, and follow traffic signs and signals.
- Stay in the bike lane whenever possible.
- Never use electronics while riding – they are distracting.
FOCUS ON THE ROAD
For some teens, back to school also means the new-found freedom of driving. You should keep these things in mind when driving to school:
- The car shouldn’t move until everyone is buckled up.
- Follow the speed limit.
- Stay focused. In 2017, 297 people died in crashes that involved distracted teen (15- to 19-year-old) drivers.
- Remember that the phone stays down when you’re driving. Make it a habit to put your phone in the glove compartment or other inaccessible location, to reduce temptation to check notifications or texts.
- Reduce distraction by limiting the number of additional passengers. If you do have others in the car with you, keep your eyes and your mind on the road.