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The Sleepy Eye Herald Dispatch - Sleepy Eye, MN
  • Getting to school safely

  • Summer is almost over, and for 56 million kids (not to mention an additional 15 million collegians), it's time to go back to school. Getting all these kids to school safely is vital.
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  • Summer is almost over, and for 56 million kids (not to mention an additional 15 million collegians), it's time to go back to school. Getting all these kids to school safely is vital.
     
    Car travel
    Many kids get to school by car, whether driven by someone dropping them off or, for older kids, driving themselves.
     
    Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for school-age kids, responsible for more than one-third of all teenage deaths. About 1,500 kids younger than 14 die in car accidents each year. For older teenagers the statistics are even more worrisome, with about 5,000 deaths and 400,000 injuries annually for kids 16 to 19.
    There are many things that can be done to minimize this hazard. Small kids should be in an appropriately sized and correctly installed car seat; car seats can reduce the risk of death by 71 percent. Kids shorter than four feet, nine inches and younger than eight, should be in a booster seat.
     
    Young drivers are more likely to speed, underestimate the dangers of a situation and overestimate their own abilities; they are involved in a disproportionately large number of motor vehicle accidents. Although people in the 15-to-24 age group make up only 14 percent of the population, they are responsible for more than 30 percent of the costs of all motor vehicle accidents, and teenagers 16 to 19 are the very highest risk group.
     
    Kid power
    Many kids get to school under their own power, whether it is walking, biking or taking public transportation.
    Cyclists should always wear a properly fitted helmet. They should know what route to take to school and stick to it. They should obey the rules of the road, riding with traffic and obeying traffic signals (in some communities smaller children may be allowed to ride to school on the sidewalk).
     
    Seeing and being seen is key; cyclists should be easily visible, wearing brightly colored clothing and using lights as needed. They not only need to be aware of cars on the road but should also be on the lookout for cars pulling out of roads and driveways.
     
    Kids walking to school need to be cautious. They should walk on the sidewalk and cross only at appropriate street corners, using routes with crossing guards or crosswalks whenever possible. Walking with other kids is safer, as a group of kids is more easily visible to drivers.
     
    On the school bus
    School buses are the most common way for kids to get to school. More than 450,000 school buses travel more than four billion miles each year, taking more than 24 million American kids to school or school activities.
    Page 2 of 2 - The large, heavy school buses we are all used to seeing are a pretty safe way to get to school. This is a tribute to our school bus drivers, as well as to most drivers who follow the traffic laws put in place to keep our kids safe, including obeying speed limits (especially in school zones) as well as school bus traffic laws (never pass a school bus with the red lights flashing or the stop arm out).
     
    Even with a great safety record, for the five or more kids who die in school bus accidents or the 15 or more killed as pedestrians by a school bus (half of whom are five to seven years old), the tragedy is real.
     
    Kids should be taught school bus safety:
    • Be safe walking to the bus stop. Be alert to traffic and follow pedestrian rules.
    • Once at the bus stop, be aware and watch for suspicious people or activities.
    • Get there at least five minutes before the bus arrives and when it does, stay back at least six giant steps until the bus stops and the doors open before boarding.
    • Always be sure the bus driver can see you; cross far enough in front of the bus to be easily seen and never cross behind the bus.
    • Never go under the bus - if you drop something let the driver know.
    • Stay seated on the bus and do not distract the driver.
    • Obey the driver’s instructions.
    • If other kids are acting inappropriately, tell the bus driver, a school official and your parents.
    Back-to-school season is here, so let’s do everything possible to get our kids back to school safely.

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