Back to school pedestrian safety for kids

As our summer nears its end, many parents are preparing to send their children of all ages back to school. Get the cameras ready. Whether we are sending students off to their first day of kindergarten or to their new college dorm, this is a very exciting time for parents and children alike. As our children grow, mature and become more independent, we treasure all of our time with them. We also worry about their safety, as this is the age that they will begin walking and riding bikes to other places, including school. As the school year begins next week, we need to remember that children of all ages are at risk for pedestrian related injuries or death.

Despite a 50% reduction in pedestrian-related injuries or death for children since 1995, more than 61 children are injured every day severely enough to seek medical attention and greater than 500 children every year are killed. A new study released in 2012 by Safe Kids Worldwide and FedEx “Walking Safely, A Report to the Nation”, revealed that teens are the most at-risk youth for pedestrian safety. Injuries among 16-19 year olds increased 25 percent over the past 5 years. Today, teens 14-19 years old account for 50 percent of child pedestrian deaths. This could correlate with an increase in the number of teens 12-17 years old who now own a cell phone. Besides teens, the next group affected by roadway deaths is new walkers aged 1-2 years. Child care providers need to be especially vigilant with this group of children who are very curious and excited about their new walking skills.

While these statistics are a tragic reality, we need to remember that these are preventable injuries. We can protect our children by teaching them a few key safety rules.

Tips for parents:

  • Always walk with children under the age of 10 – it’s recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
  • Hold a child’s hand while walking around any traffic including parking lots.
  • Practice crossing the street with your children multiple times before they are allowed to go out on their own.
  • Instruct children to always cross streets at the crosswalk or corner and NEVER dart out in the middle of the block or between parked cars.
  • Teach children to stop at the curb, look left, right and left again and then continue to look for traffic as they cross the street.
  • Always have your child wear reflective clothing. If older teens are walking during the early dark hours, give them a flashlight to use as well.
  • Remember, cell phones are a distraction:
    • Avoid calling your child’s cell at times when you know they may be walking.
    • Instruct children to put cell phones away while walking near a roadway or crossing the street.
    • Set strict cell phone rules about phone use and have your children sign a contract.
  • Check your child’s route for safe sidewalks and instruct them to use the sidewalks. Older teens may walk without sidewalks, but only if they walk facing traffic.

Tips for Drivers

  • Look out for children darting into the street.
  • Be vigilant during the early morning hours and afternoon when children are likely to be walking to school or the bus stop. Remind your teen drivers to lookout for children and school buses as well.
  • Obey the school bus traffic rules and review them with your teen drivers:
    • Always stop before a school bus from either direction when it is stopped to load or unload school children. The only exception is when you are on the opposite side of a highway having four or more lanes.
    • When you see the overhead flashing yellow lights on the bus, approach with caution and prepare to stop. The lights will be activate for 10 seconds prior to the overhead flashing red lights to warn approaching drivers that a stop to load or unload children is about to happen.
    • When you see the overhead flashing red lights and stop arm, stop your car and wait. The lights and arm are activated when the bus is stopped to pick up and drop off children. When the lights are shut off and arm retracted, proceed cautiously.

The information in this article has been provided courtesy of The American Academy of Pediatrics, Safe Kids World Wide, Delaware Office of Highway Safety and the online driver’s manual for the State of Delaware.