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
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
- 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
- Walk in a single file line.
- Use the handrail to avoid falls.
- Wait until the bus comes to a complete stop before
- 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
- 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:· 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
- 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
- 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
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
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.