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Back-to-School Safety: What Should You Know?

Back-to-school season is about much more than choosing classes and wardrobes, it is a major change of routine that affects children, parents, teachers, administrators, and community members. It is important to think about safety because traffic patterns change considerably, and there is much more activity in school zones and neighborhoods than in the summertime. Thinking about safety can help prevent car accidents and injuries.

Children and School Buses

Children should always try to get to their bus stops early; running down the street to catch the ride is dangerous. They should stay on the sidewalk until their bus arrives and stand away from the curb; 6 feet or five steps is the recommended distance. Darting out into the road or crossing in between parked cars is dangerous and should be avoided. Children should know to board their bus only after it comes to a complete stop.

Children should also be in clear view of the bus driver and never walk right behind the vehicle. They should only board their own bus, but if they need to take another one, the parent or caregiver will need to alert the driver, school, or transportation company in advance.

When children have to cross the street in front of their bus, they should walk on the side of the road until they reach 10 feet in front for visibility. To reinforce these skills, parents and caregivers can go to the bus stop the first few times to show their children the routine.

Walking, Biking, and Driving to School

Children who walk to school should use routes that have crossing guards, and only cross streets at designated intersections. Young students should be walked to school by their parents or caregivers. Those who are a bit older can be accompanied for the first week or so; it is safest for them to walk in groups or with a friend. They can be taught to never talk to strangers and to never get into a stranger’s vehicle.

Students who are old enough to ride bikes to school should always wear a helmet. Walkers should travel on the right side, going in the same direction as traffic. Bicyclists need to follow the same traffic signs and signals as walkers and drivers, and they should lock up their bikes when parking them at school.

Young children riding in a car should be in a car seat or booster if they are too young to wear a shoulder belt; those are generally designed for children ages 8 to 12 years old and over 4 feet, 9 inches tall. They should also stay in the back seat until they turn 13 years old or so, depending on height and weight.

Teen drivers should also wear a seat belt and should only have one other passenger that is close to their age. Otherwise, the distractions of a small group can be dangerous and cause an accident. A cellphone should not be used when behind the wheel either, and teens should also be taught not to eat, drink, or groom themselves while driving.

Driving in School Zones

Drivers with students in their vehicle should also avoid distractions when going to and from school, and obey the neighborhood, street, and school zone speed limits. It is wise to make eye contact with anyone who is crossing the street, and never pass buses that are loading and unloading children. The recommended stopping distance is 25 feet behind a bus.

Drivers should be alert for unexpected slowdowns and stops; yellow lights indicate that the bus is slowing down, and red means stop. When dropping students off, follow the school’s procedures; you may have to wait in line or park in certain areas if you arrive early.

School zones have posted speed limits that are visible to all drivers, as well as crossing guards who stop traffic to allow children and others to safely cross the street. If you want to avoid having to drive behind school buses and need to stop, try leaving your house earlier or later to avoid these busy times. Otherwise, try to find another route that will get you to your destination faster.

Backpack Safety Important

Many people overlook the importance of backpack safety. Some backpacks that are full of books, supplies, and other items can be heavy, causing back and neck problems. A fully loaded backpack should not be more than 15 to 20 percent of the child’s body weight, and all of the compartments should be used to distribute the weight as evenly as possible.

Backpacks with wider straps are best, and look for ones that have padded straps and backs. Children might not want to use the waist strap, but these can also make those heavy carriers safer and more comfortable. Remind them to always use both shoulder straps, as carrying a backpack on one shoulder can also lead to injury. Additionally, if you send a child to school with lunch, avoid ones that can spoil quickly; ice packs can help.

Piscataway Personal Injury Lawyer at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr Advocates for Back-to-School Safety

Even the safest drivers can be injured in a car accident, and driving risks are greater during the school year. If you have been injured by a negligent driver, speak with our skilled Piscataway personal injury lawyer at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr. Complete our online form or call us at 732-537-8570 to schedule a free consultation. Located in Highland Park, New Jersey, we serve clients in New Brunswick, Somerset, Piscataway, Edison, South River, Sayreville, Metuchen, East Brunswick, South Plainfield, Fords, Middlesex, Old Bridge, Iselin, Bound Brook, Perth Amboy, Colonia, Elizabeth, and Newark.

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