As the summer season draws to a close, it is important to talk to your children about back-to-school safety. It is also important to take necessary precautions as a motorist, and to share the road with school buses, pedestrians and bicyclists. From your little ones with heavy loads on their backs to your teen drivers with the new responsibility of a car, all children are at risk for injury during the school year and can benefit from these safety tips.
Keep their backpacks light
The American Chiropractic Association recommends that a backpack weigh no more than 10 percent of a child’s weight. Heavy loads can cause back and shoulder pain and poor posture – in fact, lawmakers in several states are pushing for legislation requiring school districts to send students home with a lighter pack.
Avoid playground injuries
The National Program for Playground Safety reports that 80 percent of playground injuries are caused by falls – usually when using swings, slides and overhead ladders. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission instructs that the area around where a child might fall should have protective surfacing extending at least six feet in all directions. Protective surfacing can be made of wood chips, mulch, sand, pea gravel, shredded tires or rubber mats and should be at least 12 inches deep. Additionally, make sure that your child’s playground equipment is free from protrusion and head entrapment hazards and receives regular maintenance, and that your child is adequately supervised.
A common misconception is that football playing boys are the only ones who bang their heads during schools sports. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, girls suffer a higher percentage of concussions in sports in which both girls and boys participate, such as soccer. If your child gets hit on the head, look for signs and symptoms of concussion such as feeling sleepy, confusion, forgetfulness, glassy eyes, poor balance, slowed speech or changes in behavior. Make sure that all coaches know how to recognize these signs and have an emergency plan in place.
School bus safety
School buses are the safest mode of transportation, but children also need to be alert and aware of their surroundings to prevent injuries. When waiting for a bus, line up away from the street as the bus approaches. Wait until the bus has come to a complete stop before approaching, and always use the handrail when boarding. Once on the bus, use a seat belt if available, don’t distract the driver, keep head, arms and hands inside, and keep aisles clear of books.
Share the road
Remember, when a bus has its red overhead lights flashing, all traffic from BOTH directions must stop at least 20 feet from the school bus. Traffic must remain stopped until the flashing red lights are turned off or the bus resumes its travels. It is also crucial to keep an eye out for and share the road with pedestrians and bicyclists.
Don’t walk and text
According to a study by the Nielsen Company, kids ages 13 to 17 send more than 3,400 texts a months. Remind your kids that texting and walking is dangerous. Also alert them to not to walk with ear or headphones on, always walk on the sidewalk rather than in the street, and cross only at crosswalks. Like distracted drivers, distracted walkers are at an increased risk of danger from traffic and other hazards along the way.
Protect your teen driver
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reminds parents to set “5 to Drive” rules for their teen drivers:
- No Cell Phones While Driving
- No Extra Passengers
- No Speeding
- No Alcohol
- No Driving or Riding Without a Seat Belt
According to the National Safety Council, teen crashes spike in September, especially during the hours that school begins and lets out. Having a conversation with your teen drivers can help prevent them from injuring themselves or others. Parents are the most effective influence, even if your teen drivers seem like they are not listening.
Have a safe start to the school year!