Back-to-School means time to review street smarts with kids
No. 2 Pencils? Check. Three-hole, wide-ruled notebook paper? Check. The basics of pedestrian safety? Wait? Is that even on the list?
We’ve all spent a fortune preparing our kids to head back to class, but they’re not truly ready until Mom and Dad have helped them understand the building blocks of safety for whichever way they’ll be getting to school.
Whether by foot, bike, bus or carpool, there are several safety standards that should be part of any back-to-school preparations.
I’m sure we could all use a primer, so it could be fun to make some notecards out of the information below to help younger kids know what to do when it’s time to head out the door each morning. Here are some tips to get you started:
Intersections should be crossed in marked lanes, and young commuters should always look both ways before crossing.
Remind your kids to be cautious of vehicles backing up and to assume that drivers can’t see them. Be watchful of cars in driveways, intersections and those turning or pulling out.
Children should also be aware that even if they can see a driver, the driver may not able to see them. If they’re heading out early when it’s still dark, make sure they wear bright or reflective clothing, carry a flashlight and attempt to make eye contact with a driver to ensure they’re seen.
Safety measures such as crosswalks and traffic lights are meant to keep children safe. But remind your kids that these things are not able to prevent every injury. Children should always be mindful of what is going around them.
Here’s another tip for parents and kids alike: Don’t bury your face in your smart phone or iPod while you’re walking. You’ll miss what’s happening in front of you (or just outside your peripheral vision) and this can put you in harm’s way.
Help children choose a bike that’s the right size. Both feet should be able to touch the ground when sitting on the seat and touching the handlebars.
If your child will ride a bike with hand brakes, make sure he or she can comfortably grasp the brakes and apply enough pressure to safely stop the bike.
A common misconception is the direction in which a person should ride a bike. Don’t go against traffic! Children should instead ride with the flow of traffic, and those under the age of 10 can ride on the sidewalk, but others are required to drive on the road and stay as far to the right as possible.
Make sure your kids know to respect traffic signals and stop at all stop signs and stop lights. Teach them the proper hand signals for left, right and stop.
What’s the best way to cross a road? Stop and look left, right and left again before crossing an intersection or entering the street. Watch for traffic from behind before making a left turn. Drivers should give 3 feet of clearance to bikers.
Share the ABCs of biking with your kiddos: Air tires and make sure they are properly inflated. Brakes must work, and bars must be tightened. Chains must be tight and oiled.
If there’s one tip I can’t repeat enough, it’s this one: Always wear a helmet that fits and meets safety standards developed by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. This can help your family avoid traumatic brain injury.
Kids aren’t the only ones who need a primer about bus safety. I see so many adult drivers fail to brake – in both directions of traffic – when a school bus is stopping for its passengers. This can be a deadly mistake!
Kids need to know they can’t expect that drivers will be stopping, so explain to them that they should be careful and watch for traffic as they get off and on the bus. They should always cross in front of a bus and never try to go behind the vehicle, where they can’t be seen.
It’s also important to remind your kids that it takes a lot of concentration to drive a bus, so they shouldn’t be disruptive or misbehave. Of course, they need to stay seated for their own safety and that of their friends and neighbors.
When you carpool, remember to drop passengers off at the curb or driveway and make sure your charges do not run in front of or behind other vehicles.
Also secure items in children’s backpacks so that objects will not fall out when exiting the car.
Kids will be excited that school is back in session, of course, so they may also need a basic reminder not to open that SUV or mini-van door until the vehicle is fully stopped.
And last, of course never least: Always have each passenger wear a seat belt and fastened in the appropriate child safety seat. You can learn more at archildrens.org
Get your school year started off on the right foot (or wheel)! Add a safety primer to your list of must-haves and look forward to a careful and fun commute for everyone in your home this fall.
Another tip: The MyACH iPhone app available from the Apple iTunes store can help you find lots of helpful information about preventing all kinds of injuries and illnesses. Download it free today.
Sam Smith, MD, is surgeon in chief at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and a professor of Surgery at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. He writes a column each week covering a variety of kids’ medical concerns. If you have a topic you’d like him to consider addressing, email firstname.lastname@example.org.