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The start of another school year is just around the corner. While some school districts are offering virtual learning options, other districts are opening their doors and welcoming children into the schoolhouse for the 2020-2021 academic school year. Most students haven’t stepped into a school building since March. Because of the unusual gap, a conversation regarding the importance of safety when commuting to school should be at the top of the to-do list. Whether this will be your child’s first getting to school on their own or a repeat of previous, discussing the importance of pedestrian safety with your children will keep them safe.

Pedestrian safety is not limited to children who walk to and from school. There were 301 school-aged children killed in tragic school transportation-related crashes from 2006 to 2015. With that said, there are various methods children use to get to and from school which requires a pedestrian safety discussion with an adult.

Riding the school bus

Although The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that school buses are the safest way for children to commute to and from school, there are dangers when children board and exit the bus. In fact, school bus crashes account for more than two-thirds of child pedestrians fatally injured every year. To reduce such risks, teach your child the following tips:

  • Stand five giant steps away from the curb while waiting for the bus to arrive.
  • Always wait for the bus to stop, the doors to open and the bus driver to tell you when to board.
  • Exit the bus when it stops, look left-right-left, and take five steps away from the bus toward the curb.
  • Never walk behind the bus.

Bicycles, scooters, and skateboards

Some children prefer to commute to school on a bicycle, scooter or skateboard. However, school-aged children have not fully developed their depth, distance, and speed perception or their eyesight and hearing. They need clear, specific instructions on dealing with traffic. Children riding their bicycle, scooter or skateboard should understand basic traffic laws, be able to have control of their bike and be reminded of the following:

  • Wear a properly fitted helmet with securely fastened chin straps every time you will ride your bike.
  • Follow all traffic signs and signals and ride in the same direction as traffic.
  • Stay in the bike lane whenever possible.
  • Use the sidewalk appropriately and keep an eye out for other pedestrians.
  • Electronics should not be used when riding as they are a dangerous distraction.
  • Know the meaning of signs and symbols (Yield, One Way, Do Not Enter, Railroad, etc.) and always follow them

Walking to school

Don’t assume the basics are too basic for an explanation. Every day, 44 children are hit by a car while walking in the United States. Some pedestrian safety preventive measures may seem like common sense to an adult, but children need reminders. The ability to see and steer clear of approaching objects is a fundamental skill. Children under 10 need to cross the street with an adult. Every child is different, but developmentally, most kids are unable to judge the speed and distance of oncoming cars until the age of 10. If your child will be walking to school, communicate the following safety reminders. Take the extra time to explain why it is important that they stick to them.

  • Talk to your children about looking left, right and left again before crossing the street. Remind them to keep looking until they have safely walked across.
  • If you see a car coming, wait on the sidewalk until it goes by.
  • Walk on the sidewalk. If there is not a sidewalk, walk on the edge of the street facing traffic.
  • Walking near traffic is not the time to horseplay. Focus when walking near traffic.
  • Use crosswalks to cross the street whenever they are available.
  • If you see a car parked where you are going to cross, make sure the car is not running. If it is, they might reverse without looking.
  • Crosswalks don’t mean it is 100% safe to walk across. Before you cross at a crosswalk, stop at the curb and look left then right then left again. When no cars are coming, cross and keep looking left and right for cars.

Does my child need to wear a mask while walking or biking to and from school?

Whether or not your child will have to wear a mask likely depends on your state or local ordinances governing the matter. Many localities have age requirements on whether or not a child under a certain age should be required to wear a mask.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, when you’re outside “[i]f you’re unlikely to be around anyone or will have the option of maintaining a safe distance from anyone you encounter, then a mask likely isn’t necessary but having one handy is a good idea just in case.” In other words, if your child is going to be walking to school in a large group or with other children who aren’t members of your household, they should probably wear a mask. Mask use helps prevent germs from easily spreading, but they don’t necessarily prevent spread entirely.

Ultimately, whether or not your child wears a mask outside while commuting to school is up to you, your child and your state, county or city’s local guidance.

Teens and driving

For some teens in high school, the school year might mean picking up friends to ride to school and leaving together to hang out after school. As parents, it is important to be aware that teens are the largest age group reported as distracted at the time of a fatal crash. If your teen has driving privileges, talk to them about how serious it is that they drive safely and leave the cell phone out of sight. Their life, the life of a classmate or a pedestrian could depend on it.

Commuting to school while distracted 

We have all heard the term distracted driving. The danger of distractions is not limited to those behind the wheel. Loading or unloading the bus, riding a bicycle, scooter or skateboard or walking while looking down at a phone, iPad or other distraction is extremely dangerous. In today’s modern age, it is common for children to have cell phones at very young ages. Such entertainment hinders the child from staying alert and aware of their surroundings. This becomes a problem that could lead to tragedy if the child is not paying attention near traffic. They might not hear a car approaching or may dart towards oncoming traffic without enough time for the driver to realize a child is in their path. Teach your kiddos to put the phones, headphones and any other type of distraction down while on their route to school; you might need a little reinforcement when it comes to teenagers.

Child pedestrian safety can be fun

Talking with your children is always a great start. However, talking and only talking may not be as effective as you would hope. It takes time and practice for a child to retain information.

You can make learning memorable by teaching through on hands experience to increase retention and develop abilities that are real-life skills. For example, play a game similar to memory with cards that tests their knowledge of traffic signs. In addition, walk the school route with your child so they will be familiar with the route when it is time for them to walk alone. This will also give you peace of mind knowing your child is aware of where and how to cross the street. The goal is to ensure your child understands pedestrian safety.  This includes basic safety rules, the ability to identify traffic signs and understands how to behave safely and responsibly around traffic.

Click here to download our Back to School Safety Checklist and Printable Memory & Matching Game for Kids!

Safety tips for motorists

The unfortunate truth is that many times, children are injured while getting to and from school due to the negligence and carelessness of drivers on the roads. As parents, we do our part to make sure our children ’s trip to and from school is safe. But as drivers, we also have a responsibility to reduce the number of crashes involving school-aged pedestrians.

  • Before backing out of your driveway or garage, watch for children in the neighborhood walking or bicycling to school.
  • When driving in school zones, watch for young people who may not have had the safety discussion with their parents. Children tend to dart in and out of the street.
  • Slow down. You might be in a hurry to make it to work on time. However, if tragedy strikes, you will have bigger problems to worry about.
  • Be extra alert near school zones as children might be horse playing on their commute to school or while waiting for the bus.

Learn and obey the school bus laws in your state including:

  • Yellow flashing lights: The school bus is preparing to stop to load or unload children. Motorists should slow down and prepare to come to a complete stop.
  • Red flashing lights: Indicates that the bus has stopped to allow children to either board or exit the bus. Many state laws require motorists to come to a full stop and wait for the red flashing lights and extended stop sign to disengage before resuming driving. To ensure that you are driving as safe as possible around a school bus, it is best to wait until the bus begins moving before you hit the gas again.

How The Carlson Law Firm can help

At a time when you’re vulnerable, traumatized and emotionally exhausted, you need a team that will support you through the often complex process that lies ahead. Here at The Carlson Law Firm, we have devoted decades to protecting the rights and futures of personal injury victims and their families for over 40 years. We understand that serious injuries cause harm to entire families. An experienced Pedestrian Accident Attorney has the skills to pursue maximum compensation on your behalf. If your child or a loved one was injured as a pedestrian due to the negligence of another, we want to help. Contact us today to discuss your situation and explore your legal options during a free consultation.

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