Back-to-school season is upon us, and while this can be an exciting and proud time for parents, it also creates potential safety hazards we all need to be aware of. I’m not a parent myself, but I’m the oldest of six children and I’ve learned that if your family creates a few good habits, you don’t worry nearly as much about your child's safety going to school. Here are some of the things my mother taught me about staying safe on the way to school:
The Buddy System: If your child is nervous about getting on the bus, encourage them to find a buddy. This is especially helpful in school districts where kids from elementary, middle and high school ride on the same bus. My sister used to hate riding the bus but when she found friends it made the bus ride to and from school much more comfortable for her and much less unsettling for my mother.
Be Visible: I’m from Alaska, and I remember my mom being so concerned with me being seen on the roads on the way to the bus stop. In some areas it’s still dark when it’s time to get to the bus stop or start walking to school, so encourage brighter outerwear when shopping for school clothes so that your child is visible. If you feel that’s not enough, you can always invest in a reasonably priced reflective belt or vest.
Crosswalk Etiquette: Make sure to teach your kids the signals that crossing guards in your area use and encourage them to be aware and look both ways before crossing any street.
Tell Your Friends: Talk to your friends and neighbors about the school zones in your area and where the bus makes its stops. Make them aware of where they need to slow down and watch for your precious little ones.
I may not be a parent, but this week is one that I’m having to prepare for as well. I cross four bus routes and three school zones on my way to work, so it's important for me to be safe as a driver. Here are my tips for prepping for your commute during the school year, while also ensuring the safety of your community’s children.
Leave Early: School zones can slow a 45 mph street down to just 15 mph. Leaving just fifteen minutes early means you have the time to follow the laws of these zones and, in turn, keep children safe and not slow yourself down more with a pesky speeding ticket. (P.S. In case you didn’t know, the fines for speeding in a school zone are exponentially more than a normal speeding ticket.)
Watch the Volume: I know I like to tune out my drive to work by cranking up the tunes and just letting my mind be absorbed in the music instead of my long commute. Be careful about keeping the music too loud in areas where school children might be present. The whistle of a crossing guard might not be loud enough to hear if you’re rocking out in your car.
Stop for Busses: Seriously, just do it. No matter what side of the road you are on, if you see that stop sign come out, just stop. It's the law, it’s considerate, and an all-around good idea. Kids like to run and you wouldn’t want to chance little Suzy running across the street before you had to time to see her.
This school year, whether you’re a parent or not, make sure kids are safe. A few simple changes in routine and habits can make all the difference. You can make an impact on back to school safety no matter who you are or what you do. Just remember that even you were once that little kid trying to stay safe in what seemed like such a huge and dangerous world.