5 Questions Every Parent Should Ask To Keep Back-to-School Season Safe

As summer winds down, NSC urges parents to think about issues that might not be top of mind but can pose significant safety risks.

August 15, 2018

Itasca, IL – More than 50 million children across the U.S. will go back to public school in the coming weeks. Between back-to-school shopping, finalizing classes and meeting teachers, the National Safety Council urges parents to slow down and ask themselves five simple questions that directly impact children’s and teens’ safety:

Data indicates too few people may consider these issues. Weekday fatal crashes involving teen drivers, for example, peak in the hours before and after school. Loading and unloading is the most dangerous time for students who ride a school bus. Backpacks injure as many as 14,000 children each year. More than 200,000 children go to emergency rooms because of playground-related injuries annually, concussion diagnoses are on the rise and 15% of teens do not get enough sleep on school nights.

“We would never forget back-to-school supplies, but we tend to overlook safety,” said NSC President and CEO Deborah A.P. Hersman. “While unintentional injury deaths are the leading cause of fatalities involving school-age children, we often spend more time discussing first-day-of-school outfits than safety.”

To help ensure a safer back-to-school season, NSC recommends:

  • Riding the bus. Children are 70 times more likely to get to school safely by taking the bus rather than riding in a car. NSC urges parents to put their children on the bus and calls on all states to pass laws requiring three-point seat belts on all buses to maximize safety.
  • Avoiding teen carpools. A single young passenger increases a teen driver’s fatal crash risk 44%. If teens drive to school, they should do so alone – no friends or siblings should ride with them.
  • Walking attentively and in groups. On average one child dies a day after being hit by a car in the United States. These preventable deaths increase sharply after school and remain high through the evening, peaking in October. Children and teens should avoid texting while walking, remove headphones before crossing the street, use designated crosswalks and never assume a vehicle will stop.
  • Buying the right backpack.backpack should not weigh more than 5 to 10 percent of a child's weight. It should never be wider or longer than your child’s torso, and never hang lower than 4 inches from the waist. Padded straps, hip and chest belts, multiple compartments and compression straps can also help. Parents should have children clean out their backpacks regularly and remove unnecessary items.
  • Checking the playground. Most playground injuries are related to falls or problems with equipment. Parents should look for hazards like cracks, rust, splits in wood, sharp edges, tripping hazards, platforms without guardrails or loose bolts. Equipment should stand on either rubber, sand or wood chips – never on pavement. Notify the school immediately if anything looks unsafe.
  • Advocating for concussion education. Every 3 minutes, a child is treated in the emergency room for a sports-related concussion. Check with school leadership to ensure coaches are educated about the signs and symptoms of a concussion.
  • Planning around sleep schedules. School-aged children need 9-11 hours of sleep each night, and teens need 8-10 hours. Sleep deprivation can lead to serious issues, including inability to concentrate in class, lower test scores, stunted growth and acne. Fatigued teens are at increased risk of a car crash. Plan school and extracurricular activities so they do not impact children’s ability to get enough sleep.

For additional back-to-school safety information and tips for parents, visit nsc.org/backtoschool.

About the National Safety Council
The National Safety Council is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to eliminate preventable deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the road through leadership, research, education and advocacy. Founded in 1913 and chartered by Congress, NSC advances this mission by partnering with businesses, government agencies, elected officials and the public in areas where we can make the most impact.

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