The beginning of a new school year is a great time for parents to have conversations with their children about safety. We have to do everything we can to make sure our families are safe. In addition to always by being a good, safe role model, it is important to explicitly review safety concerns with kids in an age-appropriate way to avoid injuries to children. This post is a collection of back to school safety tips that we hope will help you in discussions with the children in your life.
School Bus Safety Tips For Kids
The school bus stop can be a particularly dangerous place. We were surprised to learn that in many ways the school bus stop is more dangerous than the time children spend on the bus. Here we share some sobering statistics as well as safety tips to discuss with your kids.
Bus stop accident and injury statistics
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), over a recent seven years almost 1,200 of the fatal motor vehicle traffic crashes were school-related. Over a hundred kids under age 18 died in school-related crashes in those years. School buses themselves are actually pretty safe. An average of about 7 school-age children die per year in school bus crashes. But nearly 3 times that are killed waiting for or getting on or off the bus. Most victims are between 5 and 7 years old, according to Stanford Children’s Health, and are hit in the “danger zone”, the area within 10 feet surrounding the bus.
For older kids, a lot of problems occur because of distractions. The NHTSA observed about 39,000 students in school zones and found that nearly 1 in 4 high school students and 1 in 6 middle school students were walking with distractions (wearing headphones, texting, talking on the phone, or performing a combination of all three). Unsafe street crossing was observed in nearly 80% of students.
Bus stop safety tips
Below are our top tips for staying safe at and around school bus stops and avoiding school bus accidents and injuries:
- stay at least 5 steps away from the curb while waiting, farther in dangerous conditions like when roads are covered with ice; stay out of the street and avoid hazardous play and games
- always wait until the bus comes to a complete stop and follow the driver’s instructions for boarding
- after getting your seat, face forward, stay in the seat, and keep head and arms inside the bus at all times
- don’t shout, make excessive noise, or distract the driver
- exit the bus after it stops and look left and right for cars before crossing a street
- don’t walk in the driver’s blind spot — the area extending about 10 feet in front of the bus
Pedestrian Safety Tips For Kids
As children walk to and from school or even to and from a bus stop, it is important to keep the following tips in mind, to avoid pedestrian accidents and injuries:
- practice walking the shortest, safest route to school with them
- walk on the sidewalk whenever possible and, when it isn’t, walk on the edge of the street facing traffic
- only use crosswalks, whenever possible, and always look both ways
- only use public sidewalks and streets, no shortcuts through woods or private property
- avoid horseplay when walking near the street
- keep visibility in mind when choosing their clothing
- review with them the way to deal with strangers and instruct them never to get in anyone’s car without your permission
- teach children to pay very close attention when crossing the street avoid distractions from texting, wearing headphones, and using your phone when crossing streets
Bicycle Safety Tips For Kids
Whether your children ride their bikes to and from school, or simply in your neighborhood after school and on weekends, it is always a good time to remind your children of the importance of bicycle safety. We see so many serious bicycle injuries, and would plead with you to make sure your children have a good bicycle helmet. If you can’t afford one, contact our office and we will help you get one for your child. For more on this topic, check out our previous post on bicycle safety tips for children.
- rehearse the route to school with them
- always wear a correctly fitted helmet fastened with a chin strap (a good thing to role model)
- stay in a bike lane whenever possible, and when in the street, ride in the same direction as traffic, following traffic rules that you’ve reviewed with them.
- teach appropriate hand signals
- leave early and allow plenty of time to safely get there
- avoid the phones and other distractions while riding
- teach your kids to always be mindful of their visibility
- remind kids to be careful when approaching driveways in addition to intersections
- consider restricting your children from riding at dusk and shortly after dark. Most of the serious bicycle vs. car accidents happen between 6 and 9 p.m.
Playground Safety Tips For Kids
While it is difficult to anticipate every hazard at a playground and avoid all injuries, there are many important steps you can take to reduce the risk of your child being injured. Inspect the playground where your kids will be playing. Make sure the equipment appears to be age appropriate and check out the National Program for Playground Safety’s Report Card. Here are our other playground safety tips:
- especially with younger children, preview the playground area with them to look for safety hazards and give them pointers about particular dangers they might face.
- alert the school if you notice anything strange or dangerous, and tell the kids to do the same with their teachers
- equipment should be surrounded by shock-absorbing material extending 6 feet all around. Alert school personnel of any locations that present a serious fall risk and have inadequate padding. Falls from height can have very serious consequences, including broken bones and traumatic brain injuries.
- For swing sets, padded surfaces or mulched areas should extend twice the height of the suspended bar in both directions.
- look out for any sharp edges or points on any equipment as well as tripping hazards, and show these hazards to your children
- elevated surfaces should have guard rails to prevent falls
- observe for any attached ropes, lines, straps, or cords of any kind that might present a strangulation hazard
- warn your children about horseplay on any elevated surfaces
- discuss with your children the dangers that can arise when small children are playing with substantially bigger children, teach your bigger kids to be careful with younger kids and your smaller children to try to try to avoid dangerous situations.
- children should avoid clothes that could get caught in equipment, certain dresses and hooded sweatshirts and other clothing with drawstrings can present safety and even strangulation hazards
While not exhaustive, I hope the safety tips above are helpful for you and our family. I hope we can all do our part to teach our kids how to be as safe as possible this school year.