How to make back to school a safer time
Child-pedestrian incidents are increasing as kids go back to school. Here’s how to keep everyone safe.
The start of the school year is the most dangerous time on neighborhood streets and in school zones for child-pedestrians and bus riders.
As schools welcome students back to the classroom, experts at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt are offering safety tips for children and their parents to help prevent child-pedestrian injuries, which often increase as routines change from summer to school year.
According to Safe Kids Worldwide, cars hit more children at the start of the school year than any other time of the year. Further, more children are hit by cars near schools than any other location.
Unintentional pedestrian injuries are the fifth leading cause of injury-related death in the United States for children ages 5 to 19, with teenagers at the greatest risk. Teens have a death rate twice that of younger children and account for half of all child-pedestrian deaths.
“Younger children may feel excited or anxious over their new routine and run into the street without thinking, and older children are often distracted by phones or their peers and don’t pay attention to their surroundings,” said Purnima Unni, MPH, CHES, Pediatric Trauma Injury Prevention Program Manager at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.
“Parents should talk with their children about safe pedestrian practices, and small children should always be accompanied. Drivers should always be mindful of school zones and children waiting at bus stops, and they should always put away their phones until they reach their destination to prevent distractions that could lead to tragedy.”
Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt recommends these safety tips adopted from Safe Kids Worldwide to prevent child-pedestrian injury and death:
- While waiting for the bus to arrive, children should stand several steps back from the curb. If a parent cannot accompany the child to the bus stop, discuss in advance the appropriate place to stand.
- Teach children to wait for the bus to come to a complete stop before attempting to board or exit.
- If children need to cross the street after exiting the bus, teach them to make eye contact with the bus driver before crossing, and always look left, right and left again.
Again, teach children at an early age to look left, right and left again before crossing the street, and continue looking until they safely cross.
- Walk on sidewalks or paths when available and cross at street corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic and as far to the left as possible.
- Teach children to make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street.
- Every child is different, but developmentally, most are unable to judge the speed and distance of oncoming cars until age 10 and therefore should be accompanied by an adult.
- Encourage children to be especially alert for cars that are turning or backing up.
- Teach children not to run or dart out into the street or cross between parked cars.
- If children are walking when it’s dark, make sure they are visible to drivers. Have them wear light-colored clothing and reflective gear.
- Children should put away phones, headphones and devices when crossing the street.
Drivers should always follow the speed limit and reduce their speed in school zones and near bus stops.
- Remember to stay alert and look for children who may be trying to get to or from the school bus.
- Slow down and stop if you’re driving near a school bus that is flashing lights or has extended its side-view stop sign, as this indicates children are preparing to disembark.
- When driving, put cell phones and other distractions in the back seat or out of sight until your final destination.
- Be especially alert and slow down when driving in residential neighborhoods and school zones. Be on the lookout for bikers, walkers or runners who may be distracted or may step into the street unexpectedly.
- Give pedestrians the right of way and look both ways when making a turn to spot any bikers, walkers or runners who may not be immediately visible.
Jennifer Wetzel is Senior Information Officer and Local News Director for Vanderbilt University Medical Center.