Back-to-school safety tips: Protecting young pedestrians and bicyclists

back-to-school safety tips

Help your insurance clients protect their school kids

 

It’s back-to-school time. Parents have armed their kids with notebooks, pencils, crayons and more – but have your clients armed their kids with safety tips? Some 301 school-age children (18 and younger) were killed in school transportation-related crashes from 2006 to 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Whether children travel to school in their parents’ car, on a school bus, by foot or by bike, provide these back-to-school safety tips to parents to keep kids safe:

 

Pedestrian safety

At some point, all kids are pedestrians near the school, whether they arrived by car, bus or bike. In 2017 (latest statistics available), NHTSA says nearly 6,000 pedestrians were killed. Children under age 10 walking to school should be accompanied by an adult or responsible older child. Teach school children to:

  • Obey signs and signals; follow the rules of the road.
  • Walk on sidewalks if available.
  • In the absence of a sidewalk, walk facing traffic and as far away from traffic as possible.
  • Keep alert. Don’t use headphones or earbuds, listening to music.
  • When possible, cross streets at crosswalks or intersections, where drivers expect pedestrians. Look for cars in all directions, including those turning left or right.
  • If a crosswalk or intersection is not available, find an area where you have the best view of traffic. Wait for a gap in traffic that allows enough time to cross safely; continue watching for traffic as you cross.
  • Never assume a driver sees you. Make eye contact with drivers as they approach to make sure you are seen.
  • Be visible at all times. Wear bright clothing during the day; wear reflective materials or use a flashlight at night.
  • Watch for cars entering or exiting driveways or backing up in parking lots.

 

On the bus

No doubt, school buses are the safest way for kids to travel to and from school. Students are about 70 times more likely to get to school safely when taking a bus instead of traveling by car. That’s because school buses are the most regulated vehicles on the road; they’re designed to be safer than passenger vehicles in preventing crashes and injuries.

However, over the past 20 years, nearly two-thirds of school-age children who were fatally injured in school transportation-related crashes, were either struck by the bus or other vehicles while getting on/off the bus.

Encourage tribal parents to teach kids traffic safety rules, such as:

  • The bus stop is not a place to run or play.
  • Stay at least six feet (three giant steps) back from the curb or road.
  • Wait until the bus stops completely, the door opens and the driver beckons before approaching the bus door.
  • Never walk behind the bus.
  • If crossing the street in front of the bus is necessary, tell them to take at least five giant steps (10 feet) in front of the bus before crossing. They should make eye contact with the driver before crossing; that way, they know the driver sees them.

 

Back-to-school safety tips on a bike

In 2017 (latest statistics available), there were 783 bicyclists killed in traffic crashes. Of course, this number includes all cyclists – not just children. NHTSA’s website has videos to help train children and provide back-to-school safety tips:

  • Provide a proper-fitting helmet for each child.
  • Ensure the bike fits the child. If it’s too big, it’s most likely too hard to handle.
  • Ensure the bike is in good working order: tire pressure, brakes, chains, handlebars.
  • Don’t try to carry anything in your hands while riding; instead, use a backpack or strap items to the back of the bike.
  • Don’t give schoolmates a ride.
  • Tuck and tie shoelaces and pant legs so they don’t get caught in the chain.
  • Follow the same route always – the one approved by parents.
  • Drive in the same direction as traffic.
  • Obey street signs, signals, and road markings, just like a car.
  • Assume the other person doesn’t see you; look ahead for hazards or situations to avoid that may cause you to fall, like toys, pebbles, potholes, grates, train tracks.
  • No texting, listening to music or using anything that distracts by taking your eyes, ears or mind off the road and traffic.

 

Driving kids to school

These back-to-school safety tips are for parents driving kids to and from school:

  • Remember, these cyclists are children who don’t have built-in common-sense safety rules yet.
  • Yield to bicyclists as you would motorists and do not underestimate their speed. This will help avoid turning in front of a bicyclist traveling on the road or sidewalk, often at an intersection or driveway.
  • In parking lots, at stop signs, when backing up, or when parking, search your surroundings for other vehicles, including bicycles.
  • Drivers turning right on red should look to the right and behind to avoid hitting a bicyclist approaching from the right rear. Stop completely and look left-right-left and behind before turning right on red.
  • Obey the speed limit, reduce speed for road conditions and drive defensively to avoid a crash with a cyclist.
  • Give cyclists room. Do not pass too closely. Pass bicyclists as you would any other vehicle—when it’s safe to move over into an adjacent lane.
  • Use extra caution when driving in hard-to-see conditions, such as nighttime or bad weather.
  • Slow down and be prepared to stop when turning or otherwise entering a crosswalk.
  • Yield to pedestrians in crosswalks and stop well back from the crosswalk to give other vehicles an opportunity to see the crossing pedestrians so they can stop too.
  • Never pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk. There may be people crossing that you can’t see.
  • Follow slower speed limits in school zones and in neighborhoods where children are present.
  • Be extra cautious when backing up—pedestrians can move into your path.

 

You can help keep tribal school children safe – and their parents accident-free – by sharing these back-to-school safety tips.