As tempting as it may sound, you can't keep your children in a "safety bubble." What you can do is follow some simple safety tips that will give you and your family some peace of mind and a more secure way of life.
Safety Tips for the School Season
Although riding the school bus is one of the safest ways to travel to and from school, injuries do occur. Many injuries happen when children are boarding or exiting the bus. A blind spot extends 10 feet around the bus, obstructing the driver's view. Children are unaware of this danger zone and might mistakenly believe if they can see the bus, the bus driver can see them. Safe Kids Tulsa Area offers these important tips for school bus safety:
Waiting for the Bus
- Arrive at the stop at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive.
- 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.
On the Bus
- Remain seated at all times and keep the aisles clear.
- Do not throw objects.
- Do not shout or distract the driver unnecessarily.
- Keep hands and arms inside the bus at all times.
Boarding and Leaving the Bus
- Wait until the bus comes to a complete stop before exiting.
- Walk in a single file line.
- Use the handrail to avoid falls.
- Be aware of the driver's blind spot (10 feet in front of the bus) when walking away from the bus. (Don't bend over to pick up dropped items. Instead, children should let the driver know and ask for help.)
- Cross the street at least 10 feet in front of 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 putting children in danger of being strangled or dragged by the bus.) If parents are concerned a bus stop is in a dangerous place, they should talk with school officials about changing the location.
Walking to School
Pedestrian injuries are the second leading cause of accidental deaths among children ages five to 14. Safe Kids Tulsa Area recommends that children under 10 never cross the street alone. Please be sure to 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 obey and recognize all traffic 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 most 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 monitoring 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. Parent 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.
More than 27 million children from ages five to 14 ride bikes. Unfortunately, bicycles are associated with more childhood injuries than any other consumer product except the automobile. To keep children safe, Safe Kids Tulsa Area offers these safety tips for children riding bicycles:
- Bike helmets should be worn at all times when bicycling. Head injury is the leading cause of death when it comes to bike crashes. 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 an approved bike helmet 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 it; 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 streets.
- Children should not ride on the road without direct adult supervision.
- Plan a safe cycling route with children and ride it with them. A safe cycling route to school and other common destinations 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. 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.
- Schools should 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 1 to 14. Seventy-five percent of motor vehicle crashes occur within 25 miles of home. Safe Kids Tulsa offers these safety tips for driving children to school and participating in car pools:
- Always use child safety seats and/or safety belts correctly every time you and your children ride. Remain buckled up until exiting the vehicle. Children who have outgrown a convertible seat (usually about four to eight years old and about 40 to 80 pounds) should graduate to a booster seat.
- Drop off children as close to school as possible so that they do not have to cross the street. Make sure they enter and leave the car on the curbside.
- Arrange to pick up children at a safe spot away from the congestion of cars around the school.
- Allow extra time in your schedule to avoid driving too fast when late.
- Never put loose or heavy objects in the passenger area of the car that could injure someone if you stopped suddenly.
- Never leave a child alone in a car.
Children and Air Bags
When driving children to school with their younger brothers and sisters, be aware that you should:
- Never put an infant in the front seat of a vehicle with a passenger air bag. This applies both to motor vehicles with and without passenger air bags.
- If it is absolutely necessary for a child to ride in the front seat of a car with a passenger air bag:
- Never put an infant less than one-year-old or less than 20 pounds in the front seat;
- Secure the child in a restraint system that is correct for the size of the child - a front-facing child safety seat, a booster seat or a lap/shoulder belt;
- Move the seat as far back from the dashboard as possible; and
- Never allow a child to lean forward toward the dashboard.
Following these important safety guidelines and reviewing them with your children can help keep the back-to-school season safe -- year after year.
Learn More About Safe Kids Tulsa Area
To learn more about Safe Kids or available safety resources, please call 918-494-SAFE (7233).
Safe Kids Tulsa Area is the eastern Oklahoma affiliate of Safe Kids Worldwide
-a global organization dedicated to preventing injuries in children. The Tulsa coalition is led by The Children's Hospital at Saint Francis.