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Get Back to School Safely

From the Kansas Safe Kids Coalition

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 Jan Stegelman, Coordinator, Kansas SAFE KIDS Coalition. "This will help ensure a safe, enjoyable start to the school year for everyone."

The Kansas SAFE KIDS Coalition offers these guidelines to help parents and caregivers keep children safe this back-to-school season:

School Bus Safety

About 23.5 million students ride school buses daily. Although this 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 happen when children are boarding or exiting the bus. A blind spot extends about 10 feet in front of the bus, obstructing the driver's view. Children are not aware of this blind spot and might mistakenly believe that if they can see the bus, the bus driver can see them. The Kansas SAFE KIDS Coalition offers these important tips for school bus safety:

Waiting for 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.

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.
  • Be aware of the driver's blind spot (10 feet in front of the bus) when walking away from the bus.
  • Remove loose drawstrings or ties on jackets and sweatshirts, and replace with Velcro, snaps or buttons. Loose drawstrings or book bags can snag 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 arms inside the bus at all times.

Walking to School

Pedestrian injuries are the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death among children ages 5 to 14. In 1997, nearly 830 children ages 14 and under died from pedestrian injuries. An estimated 20,000 children ages 14 and under were injured in pedestrian motor vehicle-related incidents in 1998. The Kansas SAFE KIDS Coalition recommends that children under 10 never cross the street alone. Make sure you follow these additional safety guidelines:ยท Choose the safest route and walk it with children. Look for the most direct route with the fewest street crossings. Walk the route with children until they demonstrate traffic safety awareness. They should take the same route every day and avoid shortcuts.

  • 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 first 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 to 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 child pedestrian fatalities.
  • Teach children to cross the street at a corner or 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. Children need you to not only tell them, but also show them how to be safe pedestrians. If there are older children in your home or neighborhood, express to them how important it is to be good role models.

Riding Bikes to School

Bicycle riding is a favorite pastime of children. More than 27 million children ages 5 to 14 ride bicycles. Whether out of necessity or for fun, many of these children choose to ride their bikes to school. Unfortunately, bicycles are associated with more childhood injuries than any other consumer product except the automobile. In 1997, 225 children ages 14 and under died in bicycle-related crashes.

Motor vehicles were involved in nearly 200 of these deaths. More than 360,000 children ages 14 and under were treated in hospital emergency rooms for bicycle-related injuries in 1998. To keep children safe, the Kansas SAFE KIDS Coalition offers these safety tips for children riding bicycles to school:

  • Wear bike helmets at all times when bicycling. Head injury is the leading cause of death in bike crashes. 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 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. Children who ride bikes to school should be taught to follow the rules of the road 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.
  • Never let children ride on the road without direct adult supervision until age 10. Cycling should be restricted to sidewalks and paths until a child is age 10 and able to show how well he or she rides and observes the basic rules of the road. Parental and adult supervision is essential until traffic skills and judgment thresholds are reached by each child.
  • 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. Streets with a steady flow of fast-moving traffic are not appropriate for young cyclists with limited traffic experience.
  • 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. The risk of sustaining an injury during non-daylight conditions (e.g., at dawn, dusk or night) is nearly four times greater than during the daytime.
  • 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. In 1997, approximately 1,775 children 14 and under died in motor vehicle crashes. More than 270,000 were injured as occupants in motor vehicles in 1998. Seventy-five percent of motor vehicle crashes occur within 25 miles of home. In addition, 60 percent of crashes occur on roads with posted speed limits of 40 mph or less. The Kansas SAFE KIDS Coalition offers these safety tips for driving children to school and participating in car pools:

  • 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 seat until they are eight years old or about 80 pounds. Remember children ages 12 and under should always ride properly restrained in the back seat.
  • 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 pick up children at a safe spot away from the congestion of traffic around the school.
  • 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.

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

The Kansas SAFE KIDS Coalition, Inc. is a nonprofit group of 67 statewide organizations and businesses that have joined to protect Kansas children from unintentional injury -- the leading killer of Kansas kids. Local coalitions and chapters are located in Barber, Clay, Ford, Johnson, Osage, Pottawatomie, and Shawnee Counties, as well as Hutchinson, Lawrence, Leavenworth, Manhattan, Norton, Salina, and Wichita. Kansas SAFE KIDS is part of the National SAFE KIDS Campaign.

Visit the Kansas Safe Kids home here, or the national Safe Kids page here.


The information contained herein has been obtained from sources that the Company believes to be reliable, however, the Company has not independently verified or confirmed the information and the recipient acknowledges that no representations or warranties are being made in connection with the use of the information.