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FORT LEE, Va. -- Summer vacation season is almost over. All schools, from universities to elementary, will re-open their doors soon to allow students once again to gather for the day’s new experiences

Safety is a lifestyle that should be taught to children just as people would teach them to tie their shoe laces, ride a bike, hunt, fish etc. As children get older, their lessons become more complicated commensurate with the hazards they will most likely encounter. Since parents are not physically with their children all the time, they must be taught early how to recognize hazards and conduct their own risk assessments.

These risk assessments are simple and many times a child will be more fearful of a punishment than they would be of an injury. The key is the child must be taught to foresee accidents and other consequences of the action they are getting ready to perform. If they are taught early, they carry these lessons forward in life with them. As the lessons get more difficult they will have a good foundation to build upon.

Bus safety

School bus transportation is safe. In fact, buses are safer than cars. 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; and in every state, stop-arm laws protect children from other motorists.

Laws protect students who are getting off and on a school bus by making it illegal for drivers to pass a school bus while dropping off or picking up passengers, regardless of the direction of approach.

Seat belts have been required on passenger cars since 1968; and 49 States and the District of Columbia have enacted laws requiring the use of seat belts in passenger cars and light trucks. There is no question that seat belts play an important role in keeping passengers safe in these vehicles. But school buses are different by design, including a different kind of safety restraint system that works extremely well.

Large school buses are heavier and distribute crash forces differently than passenger cars and light trucks do. Because of these differences, bus passengers experience much less crash force than those in passenger cars, light trucks and vans.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration decided the best way to provide crash protection to passengers of large school buses is through a concept called “compartmentalization.” This requires that the interior of large buses protect children without them needing to buckle up. Through compartmentalization, children are protected from crashes by strong, closely-spaced seats that have energy-absorbing seat backs.

Small school buses (with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less) must be equipped with lap and/or lap/shoulder belts at all designated seating positions. Since the sizes and weights of small school buses are closer to those of passenger cars and trucks, seat belts in those vehicles are necessary to provide occupant protection.

Remember these safety tips:

• Wait for the bus to stop before approaching it from the curb.

• Do not move around on the bus.

• Check to see that no other traffic is coming before crossing.

• Make sure to always remain in clear view of the bus driver.

• Have a safe place to wait, away from traffic and the street.

• Stay away from the bus until it comes to a complete stop and the driver signals you to enter.

• When being dropped off, exit the bus and walk ten giant steps away from the bus. Keep a safe distance between you and the bus. Also, remember that the bus driver can see you best when you are back away from the bus.

• Use the handrail to enter and exit the bus.

• Stay away from the bus until the driver gives his/her signal that it’s okay to approach.

• Be aware of the street traffic around you. Drivers are required to follow certain rules of the road concerning school buses, however, not all do. Protect yourself and watch out.

Walking or biking to school

Even if you don’t ride in a motor vehicle, you still have to protect yourself. Because of minimal supervision, young pedestrians face a wide variety of decisions making situations and dangers while walking to and from school. Here are a few basic safety tips to follow:

• Always wear a bicycle helmet, no matter how short or long the ride.

• Ride on the right, in the same direction as auto traffic.

• Use appropriate hand signals.

• Respect traffic lights and stop signs.

• Wear bright color clothing to increase visibility

• Walk your bike through intersections.

• Make sure your child’s walk to a school is a safe route with well-trained adult crossing guards at every intersection.

• Be realistic about your child’s pedestrian skills. Because small children are impulsive and less cautious around traffic, carefully consider whether or not your child is ready to walk to school without adult supervision.

• Bright colored clothing will make your child more visible to drivers

Riding in a car

• You might have heard before that most traffic crashes occur close to home ... they do.

• Safety belts are the best form of protection passengers have in the event of a crash. They can lower the risk of injury by 45 percent.

• People are four times more likely to be seriously injured or killed if ejected from the vehicle in a crash.

• All passengers should wear a seat belt and/or be placed in an age- and size-appropriate car safety seat or booster seat.

• Children should ride in a car safety seat with a harness as long as possible and then ride in a belt-positioning booster seat. A child is ready for a booster seat when he or she has reached the top weight or height allowed for the seat, their shoulders are above the top harness slots, or their ears have reached the top of the seat.

• Your child should ride in a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle’s seat belt fits properly (usually when the child reaches about 4’9” in height and is between 8 to 12 years of age). This means the shoulder belt lies across the middle of the chest and shoulder, not the neck or throat; the lap belt is low and snug across the thighs, not the stomach; and the child is tall enough to sit against the vehicle seat back with legs bent at the knees and feet hanging down.

• All children under 13 years of age should ride in the rear seat of vehicles.

• Remember that many crashes occur while novice teen drivers are going to and from school. Parents may want to limit the number of teen passengers to prevent driver distraction. Do not allow teens to drive while eating, drinking or talking on a cellphone.

Backpack Safety

• Choose a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back.

• Pack light. Organize the backpack to use all of its compartments. Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back. The backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of the student’s body weight.

• Always use both shoulder straps. Slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles. Wearing a backpack on one shoulder also may increase curvature of the spine.