August 7, 2002
Parents and children encouraged to think first about back-to-school safety
By Jim Albritton
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—Think First, Methodist Rehabilitation Center’s statewide safety and injury prevention program, and hospital physicians are urging parents and children to think first about back-to-school safety.
“Planning a safe route to school, never talking to or accepting rides from strangers and knowing school bus safety rules can save a child’s life,” said Lauren Fairburn, director of Think First.
Fairburn says that riding the school bus is one of the safest forms of transportation and that most accidents occur while students are getting on and off the bus.
“Have a safe place to wait for the bus away from the street,” said Fairburn. “Children should wait until the bus comes to a complete stop and the driver signals for them to enter. Most importantly, they need to stay away from the danger zone, the 10-foot area around the bus where the driver can’t see them.”
Dr. Rahul Vohra, medical director at Methodist Rehab, says there are other safety concerns when traveling to school like reducing the risk of brain and spinal cord injuries by always wearing a seatbelt when riding in a car and a helmet when bike riding.
“Wearing a seatbelt reduces a person’s risk of serious injury by as much as fifty percent, ” said Dr. Vohra. “Children under 12 years old should always ride properly restrained in the back seat of a car.”
Fairburn says that parents need to understand the importance of always wearing bike helmets and using proper hand signals.
“We want children who ride their bikes to school to be safe and obey traffic laws. Children and teens are at high-risk for traumatic injuries, many of which are preventable”, said Fairburn.
“Each year an estimated 20,000 cyclists are admitted to hospitals and 580,000 receive emergency room treatment,” said Dr. Vohra. “Wearing a bike helmet reduces the risk of brain injury by as much as 88 percent.”
The Think First team’s back-to-school safety tips include:
- Plan and practice a walking route to school or to the bus stop. Choose the quickest way with the fewest street crossings and use intersections with crossing guards.
- Never walk or bike alone. Children should always have a friend walk or bike with them to school. They should stay away from vacant areas.
- Use the handrail to enter and exit the school bus. Make sure loose strings and other objects are secure before exiting the school bus.
- Stay away from the danger zone. The danger zone is the 10-foot area around the bus where the driver can’t see children.
- Children should know their phone number, address and how to dial 911 for emergencies.
- Children should never talk to strangers or accept gifts from strangers.
- Always wear a helmet when riding a bike. The helmet should fit snugly and not move from side to side. The front of the helmet should be approximately one inch above the eyebrows and the chinstrap should be buckled snugly.
- See and be seen. Put reflectors on bicycles and helmets and wear bright fluorescent colors when riding.
- Always obey all traffic signals, traffic officers, signs and safety patrols.
“If children are left alone after school, have rules for locking all doors, windows and have your child check in with you and a trusted neighbor,” said Fairburn. “Children should never tell a stranger that they are home alone or let someone in the house that they don’t know.”
Each year an estimated 500,000 people sustain brain and spinal cord injuries in the United States. The most frequent causes of these injuries are automobile crashes, falls, athletic injuries, especially diving, and violence.
For more information:
Returning students urged to be safe on buses, bikes, in cars | The Clarion-Ledger