Now that the kids are back in school, there are many things parents and children should do to prepare for a happy and healthy school year. A key way is reiterating the importance of pedestrian and transportation safety with your children.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, each morning school buses keep 17.3 million cars off roads that surround schools. School buses play an important role in keeping kids safe. They are the safest vehicle on the roads—because of their size, color and marking. We encourage parents to send their kids on the school bus instead of driving them in a private vehicle. Having your child ride the school bus decreases traffic congestion around schools, and there are environmental benefits to doing so as well.
Early on, parents should start talking to their kids about how to cross a road safely. It is important for parents to understand that up until the age of 10, children do not have the cognitive ability to cross a road safely without assistance.
We have done a number of simulations with children and their parents at the Injury Prevention Center at CHaD using a simulated road. During these simulations, we go over all the rules, and even though we explain how to cross a road safely, kids will still cross the simulated road without fully assessing the potential vehicle dangers around them. That is why parents and drivers need to be aware that even though a child may know what they are supposed to do, they are not able to judge speed or distance. A child should really make eye contact with a driver before crossing the street. And, it is especially important for drivers to be aware of children walking out between parked vehicles.
According to the Safe Kids’ —an organization dedicated to keeping children safe and preventing childhood injuries—48 percent of drivers in school zones are distracted by multiple things. I want to remind parents that since July 1, 2015, there has been a New Hampshire Hands-Free Law, which prohibits the use of hand-held electronic devices while driving or stopped in traffic.
It’s important to enforce traffic safety rules with your children, and have your child verbally repeat those rules back to you. Simply giving you a head nod does not mean that your child understands what you are saying. We want parents to know that part of going back to school is getting children there safely—whether they are walking, biking, in private cars or on a school bus.
Jim Esdon is the program coordinator for the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD) Injury Prevention Center. For additional information related to this topic, please reach out to the Injury Prevention Center at CHaD by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.