Back to school is a busy time for children and families. Between school supplies, new clothes, and sports tryouts, parents may not think about certain safety issues. Safe Kids Kansas, the Kansas Department of Education, and the Kansas Highway Patrol want to remind parents to talk to their children about how to stay safe
As children head back to school, it’s a good time to talk about pedestrian safety. There are 17 pedestrian deaths every week in the United States, and thousands more are injured. It’s just as important to talk to your teenagers about pedestrian safety as it is your younger children. While there has been a downward trend in pedestrian deaths over the past 20 years nationally, there has been a 13 percent increase among teenagers since 2013. In fact, teens now account for about half of all pedestrian deaths among children 19 and under.
“Distraction is a problem for both drivers and pedestrians,” said Cherie Sage, Safe Kids Kansas. “If your student is walking or biking to school, be sure to stress the importance of putting electronic devices away, especially before crossing busy streets or navigating traffic in parking lots. And, adults need to follow our own advice. Give the road your full attention so you can watch for school zones and kids biking and walking to school.”
The following tips for back to school are recommended.
- Put devices down while crossing the street and getting onto or off the bus. One in five high school students cross the street while distracted by technology. Teach your kids to put devices down, look up, listen, and make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street. If your kids ride a bus, teach them only to use devices while on bus, and not while waiting on, or exiting the bus.
- Walk with your kids to the bus stop and wait with them until it arrives. Tell kids to stand at least five giant steps back from the curb, to line up away from the street as the bus approaches, and to board the bus one at a time.
- Make sure your carpool is safe. Carpooling is a great way to save time for busy families. Make sure each child in the carpool has a car seat, booster seat, or safety belt, based on individual age, weight, and height. If there isn’t, find an alternative way for your child to get to and from school.
- Receive a pre-participation physical exam. Before playing organized sports, make sure your child receives a pre-participation physical exam, or PPE, by a doctor. This can help rule out any potential medical conditions that may place your young athlete at risk.
- Drink enough water. To keep kids in top shape for sports or gym class, it’s important for them to stay hydrated. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends 5 oz. for an 88-pound child every 20 minutes, or 9 oz. for a 132-pound adolescent every 20 minutes when they are active. That equals about 10 gulps of water every 20 minutes of play.
- Check playgrounds where your children play. Look for age-appropriate equipment, as well as hazards, such as rusted or broken equipment and dangerous surfaces. Report any hazards to the school.
- Whether walking or driving, obey all traffic signals. Kids should cross the street at the corner, or crosswalk if there is one, but it’s also important for drivers to watch out for young people who may be thinking about getting to school.
Back to school safety is not only critical for students and their families, but for all of those who travel on our roads. KDOT and KHP remind motorists they must be alert as they share the road with kids headed back to school. “School buses carry the youngest Kansas citizens, and their safety is of utmost importance,” said LT Candice Breshears. “Put distractions away and pay attention so that children are safe when entering and exiting school buses, and always stop for buses that are loading and unloading children with their lights and stop arms activated”.
- Be alert. Children arriving late for the bus may dart into the street without looking for traffic.
- If you see a bus ahead, slow down in preparation for its stop. It’s easy to misjudge the speed at which you can overtake a bus, and they make frequent stops.
- Know that it is illegal to pass a school bus stopped for loading/unloading. In Kansas, the fine for this potentially deadly violation is more than $400.
- Learn the flashing signal light system that school bus drivers use to alert motorists of pending actions. Never pass a bus when flashing lights are displayed.
- Yellow flashing lights indicate the bus is preparing to stop. Motorists should slow down and prepare to stop.
- Red flashing lights and an extended stop arm indicate the bus is stopped and children are getting on or off. Motorists must stop and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended sign is withdrawn, and the bus begins moving before starting to drive again.
- While stopped behind a bus, motorists should put all distractions away and give their full attention to the road, and what is going on in and around the bus.
Safety in schools and the health and wellness of students is important as students go back to school. It is important to remember the services that are provided to help keep schools and our students safe.
“With safety being at the forefront of everyone’s minds, we want to remind parents and students that if you hear or see something, say something,” says John Calvert, head school safety, KSDE Safe and Secure Schools Unit. “Parents should talk with their students about all of the school safety resources available to report acts of violence, bullying, and suspicious activity. There is a caring community always available to support students.”
- Threats of School Violence: Kansas School Safety Hotline (1-877-626-8203) is a toll-free number available 24 hours per day, 365 days per year to give students, parents, and community members the opportunity to report any impending school violence. This hotline gives students the opportunity to anonymously report any potential violence.
- Acts of Bullying: Parent and Youth Resource Hotline (1-800-Children)
- Suspicious Activity: Suspicious Activity Report (www.kbi.ks.gov/sar)