As many students head back to school, Red Cross offers important safety tips

By Christy Peters, American Red Cross Regional Communications Manager

If you’re out this weekend, making a quick Target or Wal-Mart run, be prepared to witness a strange phenomenon – the panicked, school supplies shopping parent. We’ll be wide eyed and shaky, searching for a plastic folder, with three holes but no prongs, in a specific color that 500 other parents have also been looking for since school supply lists came out. That’s right folks, it’s back to school time!

My son will be in first grade this year, so I’m slightly less nervous than I was when he started his academic journey last year as a kindergartener. Of all my fears (and there were many) one of the biggest was him riding the bus. Watching him climb on and sit in that huge seat was enough to send me into a full-on panic attack. Unfortunately, so was watching the many drivers who sped past the bus as it was slowing down to get him or didn’t stop at all.

The American Red Cross Northern Ohio Region wants everyone to stay safe as students head back to school. Below are several reminders for riders, walkers and those of us sharing the roads and sidewalks with them. Take a moment to review these important tips and go over them with your kids returning to school.

CELL PHONES A DISTRACTION The National Safety Council (NSC) reports distracted walking can be dangerous, even deadly. Teach your students the following:
– Don’t text or talk on your phone while walking. If you must text, move out of the way of others and stop on the sidewalk.
– Never cross the street while using an electronic device.
– Do not walk with headphones in your ears.
Drivers can be distracted too. Never use a phone while driving. Help keep children
safe by eliminating all distractions.

TAKING THE BUS
– Students should get to their bus stop early and stand away from the curb while waiting for the bus to arrive. Young children should be supervised.
– Board the bus only after it has come to a complete stop and the driver or attendant instructs them to get on. They should only board their bus, never an alternate one.
– All students should stay in clear view of the bus driver and never walk behind the bus.

WALKING TO SCHOOL
– Cross the street at the corner, obeying traffic signals and staying in the crosswalk.
– Never run out into the street or cross between parked cars.
– Use a route along which the school has placed crossing guards.
– Parents, walk with young children and those taking new routes or attending new schools, for the first week to ensure they know how to get there safely. Arrange for the kids to walk to school with a friend or classmate.

GOING BY CAR
– Everyone should always wear a seat belt.
– Younger children should use car seats or booster seats until the lap-shoulder belt fits properly (typically for children ages 8-12 and over 4’9”), and ride in the back seat until they are at least 13 years old.
– If a teenager is going to drive to school, parents should mandate that they use seat
belts.

RIDING A BIKE There may be more young people on bikes as the school bells ring. They should:
– Wear a properly fitted helmet and bright clothing.
– Ride on the right side of the road, with traffic, in a single file.
– Come to a complete stop before crossing the street; walk bikes across the street.
– Stay alert and avoid distracted riding.

SLOW DOWN Drivers should slow down, especially in residential areas and school zones, and know what the yellow and red bus signals mean. Yellow flashing lights indicate the bus is getting ready to stop, that motorists should slow down and be prepared to stop. Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign indicate the bus is stopped and children are getting on or off.

Motorists must stop when they are behind a bus, meeting the bus or approaching an intersection where a bus is stopped. Motorists following or traveling alongside a school bus must also stop until the red lights have stopped flashing, the stop arm is withdrawn, and all children have reached safety. This includes two and four-lane highways. If physical barriers such as grassy medians, guide rails or concrete median barriers separate oncoming traffic from the bus, motorists in the opposing lanes may proceed without stopping.

KEEP LITTLE ONES SAFE Keeping all students safe is the primary concern for everyone, but there are special steps for parents of younger kids and those going to school for the first time:
– Make sure the child knows their phone number, address, how to get in touch with their
parents at work, how to get in touch with another trusted adult and how to call 911.
– Teach children not to talk to strangers or accept rides from someone they don’t know.

Finally, download the free Red Cross First Aid app for instant access to information on handling the most common first aid emergencies. You can find it by searching for ‘American Red Cross’ in your app store or at redcross.org/apps. Learn and practice First Aid and CPR/AED skills by taking a course (redcross.org/takeaclass) so you can help save a life.

Posted by Ryan Lang, American Red Cross Volunteer


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