Street Smarts

Pedestrian accidents have become the most common cause of serious injury and death among children age 5 to 9, and each year, more than 1,300 children under age 14 die in pedestrian-related incidents. In all your back-to-school preparations, have you talked with your children about the importance of bus and pedestrian safety? Going over these tips can easily be forgotten in the hustle and bustle of gathering school supplies, but it is an important topic for parents to address.

Erika Janes, R.N., a nurse in the Office of Child Advocacy of Norton Children’s Hospital, said that children should learn street safety as soon as they are old enough to walk outdoors on their own. “Many young children cross streets without an adult, but very few under the age of 10 can deal safely with traffic. Their age and small size put them at risk,” Janes said.

The basics start with what to wear at the bus stop. Wearing dark jackets or school uniforms can make children difficult to see; bright colors are more visible. Try attaching reflective armbands or badges to your child’s clothing to draw the attention of drivers around them. You can find a selection of these at sporting goods stores that sell running gear.

Next, it is important to discuss walking safety with your children. Make sure they know to cross streets at crosswalks on corners and to walk facing traffic so they can see what is coming toward them. One rule Janes said parents and children usually get wrong? They should always cross the street in front of the school bus. Many children go behind the bus, where the driver cannot see them. Tell your child to be sure to walk 10 steps away from the front of the bus so they are not in the driver’s blind spot.

Finally, a note on carpooling. “Most of the kids we see at Norton Children’s Hospital who have been involved in a vehicle crash are in the 4 to 9 age range, when the seat belt just does not fit them correctly. These kids put the shoulder belt behind them and end up with serious injuries,” Janes said. While carpooling with other families is a smart idea, it is important to make sure those cars are equipped with the same booster seats and safety devices your children are used to using in your own car.

-Courtney Bisig

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