Education, Family & Parenting

Keeping Kids Safe as They Walk to School

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Soon, sidewalks nationwide will be dotted with the familiar sight of children and their backpacks navigating their way to school in the early morning hours.

Allowing a child to walk to school alone can be a healthy option for both parents and their children. It teaches children independence and responsibility and provides an opportunity for physical activity.

That said, safety is critical when it comes to heading to school or anywhere on foot. After all, unintentional pedestrian injuries are the fifth-leading cause of injury-related death in the United States for children ages 5 to 19. Every day, 44 children are hit by cars while walking in the United States.

So, before your children sling on their backpacks and head out the door, introduce them to the “rules of the road.”

The Dos and Don’ts of Pedestrian Safety

One way to help your child understand more about safety is to plan their school route in advance. You may want to even walk the route with them to ensure your child is aware of potential hazards. Modeling good behavior, you should reinforce several practices:

  • When walking anywhere, use sidewalks, crosswalks and traffic signals.
  • Always look to the left, then to the right and back to the left before proceeding across the road.
  • Children younger than 10 should never cross a street unless supervised by an adult. In the absence of a parent, young children can rely on crossing guards in their neighborhoods.
  • Teach children to make eye contact with drivers before crossing the street.

Stay Within the “No Distraction” Zone

Teens account for half of all child pedestrian fatalities, with a death rate twice that of younger children. Because distraction accounts for many of these tragedies, it’s critical that children of all ages play close attention to their surroundings while going to school.

To avoid distractions, children should be encouraged to leave all devices in their pockets or schoolbags. Specifically, they should follow these practices:

  • Don’t use devices to listen to music while walking.
  • Avoid talking on a phone while walking.
  • Don’t text while walking.
  • Remember: Phones down and heads up.

Drivers Beware

Keeping streets safe for our children requires that motorists all do their part and be vigilant.

While driving vehicles in and around school zones, drivers need to slow down and obey driving speeds posted in these areas. Drivers also need to be aware of their surroundings. Always watch carefully for bikers, runners and walkers. Most important, drivers should stay off their phones while in a moving vehicle.

This is a guest post by Amy Frias, a community educator at CHOC Children’s, a pediatric health care community in Orange County, Calif., and coordinator of Safe Kids Orange County.

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