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Back to School Road Safety
August 21, 2012

Back to School Road Safety

Larry D. Jones, MPH, Health Director

August 20, 2012

School has started, and now is a good time to review ways for kids and adults to be safe while walking, biking, and driving to school. Taking a look at safety guidelines is not only helpful for the student, but is also good for parents and drivers. Now that school has started, there will be an increase in the number of children walking and biking to school along with teens who are new drivers. Being aware of safety tips can decrease the chances of getting into an accident.

When talking with your child about walking or riding their bikes to school, remember to go over basic safety tips. As a parent, make sure to choose the safest route between home and school and then practice it with children until they can demonstrate traffic safety awareness. The same route should be used every day and shortcuts should be avoided.

Teach children to obey and recognize traffic signals and pavement markings. A flashing "walk" sign is not an automatic "go" signal, but rather a signal to check for traffic in both directions before crossing. Teach children to cross streets at a corner or crosswalk and to walk, not run, across intersections. Emphasize that children should not enter streets from between parked cars or from behind shrubbery. Such darting results in the majority of child pedestrian deaths. Other tips to discuss with your children include:

· Walk with a friend.

· Look left, right, left and over your shoulder for traffic before crossing a street, and continue to check each direction as you cross.

· Make sure drivers see you by making eye contact with them.

The Building a Healthier Independence initiative is working to promote walking safety by encouraging the formation of walking school bus programs. Walking school bus programs are children who walk designated routes to school under adult supervision, stopping to accompany additional kids along the way (just like a bus).

While physical fitness for children is often the primary motivation for this type of program, other benefits include adult volunteer fitness, social bonding among students and adults, increased awareness of safety concerns in the community, and enhanced academic performance among the students. If you would like more information on the program, please contact the Independence Health Department at 816-325-7185 or health@indepmo.org.

Bike riding is a favorite mode of transportation for children, but it can often be dangerous. Make sure that children wear bike helmets at all times while riding. Head injury is the leading cause of death in bike crashes and helmets can reduce the risk of head injury by as much as 85 percent according to Safe Kids USA. Bike riders ride on the right-hand side of the road in the same direction as other traffic and they must use appropriate hand signals.

Children are not the only ones who need to think about safety during the school year. Adult and teen drivers need to be aware of safety concerns when there are more children out walking and riding bikes to school. Drivers should stay focused on driving and shouldn’t be distracted by kids in the car or other activities.

If you drive by a school zone, make sure to slow down. Driving just 5 MPH over the speed limit increases both the risk of hitting a child and the severity of any injuries. You never know if children crossing the street are paying attention, so remain stopped until the child has crossed not only your lane, but the adjacent lane as well and never pass a vehicle that has stopped at a crosswalk, as they may be waiting for someone to cross. Use extra care in areas where children may enter the road from between parked vehicles or other things that block drivers' view of the road.

*information provided by Safekidsusa.org and Kidshealth.org

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