Getting Your Kids to School Safely: What You Need to Know to Protect Your Family
Parents are more concerned about school safety than ever in light of mass shootings and other tragedies — but perhaps they should focus more on the commute to school, which is statistically a far greater risk. According to the United States Department of Transportation, an average of 135 Americans are killed every year in accidents related to school transportation. This statistic is alarming as is, but it only accounts for children transported in school buses or other motor vehicles functioning as school buses. Many other children are killed or injured while walking, biking, and driving to school.
There is no one form of transportation that is best for all children. Each has its own unique set of risks. It is up to parents to know these risks and to prepare their children accordingly.
Walking to School
The prospect of a pedestrian commute to school strikes fear in the hearts of many parents, who worry that their children will be injured or even abducted on the way to school. Walking is not nearly as dangerous as these parents think, and it may actually be beneficial — it encourages kids to get plenty of exercise. However, there are a few unique safety concerns that accompany pedestrian commutes to school. Pedestrian routes may have few crosswalks, traffic lights, safe sidewalks, or streetlights. Walk the route with your child at least once to monitor for these safety hazards, and if possible, have your child walk with other children in your neighborhood. Have a backup plan in place in case of inclement weather.
As with walking, biking to school is an excellent way for kids to get the daily exercise they need. However, biking is riskier than walking, particularly for those who do not wear helmets. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that half of the 800 bicyclists killed and 515,000 injured in 2010 were children. Helmet use alone is not enough to protect biking children; they should also wear brightly-colored clothing, use bike lanes, and avoid biking in inclement weather.
Riding the Bus
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that school buses constitute by far the safest form of vehicular transportation for children. That being said, they come with their fair share of risks, which should absolutely be addressed. Getting on and off the bus is, surprisingly, more dangerous than actually riding, so children should be instructed in safe entry and exit methods. Children should always stay in the bus driver’s line of sight while exiting. After getting off the bus, they should look both ways before crossing the road, and ideally, cross at a traffic light or a crosswalk.
Kids are far more likely to be injured if they are in a hurry, so be sure to get them to their bus stop with plenty of time to spare. The route your children take to the bus stop could be fraught with hazards, so accompany them at least the first few times they catch the bus so that you are aware of dangerous crossings. If you anticipate that your children will walk to the bus stop at a time of low visibility, request that they wear brightly-colored clothing.
Parents Driving to School
As a parent, you should demonstrate safe driving behaviors whenever you get behind the wheel. If you find yourself running late, do not speed to make up time — it’s better for your child to be a few minutes late for class than to be involved in a deadly accident. Before you leave, check that all passengers are wearing their seatbelts. Children under the age of 13 should always ride in the back seat.
Driving to High School
Many high school students are eager to exert their independence by driving to school instead of walking or taking the bus. If possible, convince your teen that the bus is a safer and more affordable option. Extracurricular activities may make commute by bus impossible, however, so be prepared for your teen to drive.
Discourage your teen from carpooling, as teens are far more prone to accidents if they drive with other teens. Keep in mind that school start times may play a role in driving safety; a Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles study found that accident rates among teen drivers were far lower when the school day began at 8:40 a.m. instead of 7:20. Your teen should not drive if he or she demonstrates signs of exhaustion.
Getting the Help You Need
If you or your child has been involved in an accident while commuting to school, it is in your best interest to seek legal support. Contact the experienced Philadelphia car accident attorneys at Rosenbaum & Associates today to schedule a confidential private consultation.