Back 2 School: Traveling Safely To And From School

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(Photo EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

(Photo EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)

As we start thinking about sending our kids back to school, it’s important that we keep them safe as we get them there. Whether they ride a bus or walk to school, The American Academy of Pediatrics has some great tips for making the 2011 school year the safest ever.

Before the school year begins, make sure you review these basic rules with your child:

School Bus

  • If your child’s school bus has lap/shoulder seat belts, make sure your child uses one at all times when in the bus. If your child’s school bus does not have lap/shoulder belts, encourage the school to buy or lease buses with lap/shoulder belts.
  • Wait for the bus to stop before approaching it from the curb.
  • Do not move around on the bus.
  • Check to see that no other traffic is coming before crossing the street.
  • Make sure to always remain in clear view of the bus driver.
  • Children should always board and exit the bus at locations that provide safe access to the bus or to the school building.

Car

  • All passengers should wear a seat belt and/or an age- and size-appropriate car safety seat or booster seat.
  • Your child should ride in a car safety seat with a harness as long as possible and then ride in a belt-positioning booster seat. Your child is ready for a booster seat when she has reached the top weight or height allowed for her seat, her shoulders are above the top harness slots, or her ears have reached the top of the seat.
  • Your child should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle’s seat belt fits properly (usually when the child reaches about 4′ 9″ in height and is between 8 to 12 years of age). This means that the child is tall enough to sit against the vehicle seat back with her legs bent at the knees and feet hanging down and the shoulder belt lies across the middle of the chest and shoulder, not the neck or throat; the lap belt is low and snug across the thighs, and not the stomach.
  • All children younger than 13 years of age should ride in the rear seat of vehicles. If you must drive more children than can fit in the rear seat (when carpooling, for example), move the front-seat passenger’s seat as far back as possible and have the child ride in a booster seat if the seat belts do not fit properly without it.
  • Remember that many crashes occur while novice teen drivers are going to and from school. You should require seat belt use, limit the number of teen passengers, do not allow eating, drinking, cell phone conversations or texting to prevent driver distraction; and limit nighttime driving and driving in inclement weather. Familiarize yourself with your state’s graduated driver license law and consider the use of a parent-teen driver agreement to facilitate the early driving learning process. For a sample parent-teen driver agreement, see www.healthychildren.org/teendriver

Bike

  • Always wear a bicycle helmet, no matter how short or long the ride.
  • Ride on the right, in the same direction as auto traffic.
  • Use appropriate hand signals.
  • Respect traffic lights and stop signs.
  • Wear bright color clothing to increase visibility.
  • Know the “rules of the road.”

Walking to School

  • Make sure your child’s walk to a school is a safe route with well-trained adult crossing guards at every intersection.
  • Be realistic about your child’s pedestrian skills. Because small children are impulsive and less cautious around traffic, carefully consider whether or not your child is ready to walk to school without adult supervision.
  • If your children are young or are walking to a new school, walk with them the first week or until you are sure they know the route and can do it safely.
  • Bright colored clothing will make your child more visible to drivers.
  • In neighborhoods with higher levels of traffic, consider starting a “walking school bus,” in which an adult accompanies a group of neighborhood children walking to school.
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