As Classes Resume, Think About Safe Routes to School

Back-to-school season is a great time to develop safer habits.

Deborah Hersman is president and CEO of the National Safety Council.

Classes are resuming at elementary schools, middle schools, high schools and college campuses all across the country. That means changing traffic patterns, kids walking or riding bikes to class and students spending more time on school grounds.

That's why it's so important to give some thought to safety as you and your children plan your days.

  • Look at when and how your children go to school; would their journey be safer if they left earlier or followed a different route? Is there a route to work that won't take you past a school zone or a bus stop? The less traffic around child-dense settings, the less chance there is of a child-involved incident.
  • The first lesson of the year for kids should be about safety. Young pedestrians most often are injured or killed by vehicles before and after school hours, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, so talk to your children about the importance of being visible to drivers and crossing safely.
  • With kids coming and going from school, or engaged in such activities as Pokémon Go, now is the time to speak with them about the dangers of distracted walking and biking. Teens account for half of all child pedestrian deaths, according to SafeKids.org. "Head up, phone down" is a good practice – being more aware of their surroundings means kids (and all of us) are less likely to trip and fall or be struck by a vehicle.
  • Now is the time to examine playgrounds and recreational areas around schools. If there are defects or safety issues, in the equipment or the surfaces, it's important to ensure that repairs be made before anyone is hurt.

All of us have said "I've learned my lesson" at one point in our lives, probably after a negative experience. When it comes to safety, with a little forethought, our children don't always have to learn lessons the hard way.

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